Good morning! I hope the weather wherever you are is better than it was Monday night in Buffalo, N.Y.
The four College Football Playoff teams are finalized, with Cincinnati making history for the Group of 5. The NFL playoff picture remains jumbled outside of the top few seeds in each conference. But the focus for many in the coming week is the final week of the fantasy football regular season and the last opportunity to earn a playoff spot.
Our writers have recommended pickups for the last week of the regular season, but we begin with a preview of the college football bowl season.
Bowl Season Spotlight
The first bowl game commences next Friday at noon ET when Toledo takes on Middle Tennessee State in the Bahamas Bowl. That kicks off a few weeks of some wildly entertaining games, as well as a few that make a clear case for limiting—not expanding—the number of bowl-eligible teams. SI Betting will have plenty of coverage and predictions leading up to the games, and here are three matchups that caught my eye.
Pittsburgh Panthers (11-2) vs. Michigan State Spartans (10-2)
Time: Dec. 30, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Spread: Pittsburgh -3.5 (-110)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and MSU running back Kenneth Walker III were two of the most exciting players in college football this season. Michigan State is one of the few teams that beat one of the four playoff teams, and Pittsburgh has the built-in grudge of being a conference champion that was not even considered for the playoff. This should be a fun matchup.
Oregon Ducks (10-3) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)
Time: Dec. 29, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Spread: Sooners -3 (-110)
This could also be called the “Departed Coach Bowl.” Lincoln Riley unceremoniously left OU for USC, while Mario Cristobal exited Oregon to head home to Miami. Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux already announced his intentions to enter the draft and reportedly skip this game, but this matchup could offer a glimpse at the future of these two programs.
Utah Utes (10-3) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)
Time: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Spread: Buckeyes -6.5 (-110)
If transitive wins count for anything, Utah owns Ohio State. Unfortunately, they don’t, though the Utes gave it to Oregon twice this season, which beat the Buckeyes earlier in the year. Ohio State is likely the best team in the country to not only be held out of the playoff, but also miss its conference championship game. Playing Utah on New Year's Day is a chance to prove that.
Find all the lines for bowl games on SI Sportsbook here.
NFL and Fantasy Football
With violent gusts of wind carrying seemingly on-target throws, kicks and punts off their target, Bill Belichick took the ball out of rookie Mac Jones’ hands against the Bills. Instead, he relied on his running backs. The New England game plan was as pretty as the weather in Buffalo Monday night, but it worked. The Patriots ran the ball 46 times for 222 yards and passed three times for 19 in a 14-10 win that kept New England in first in the AFC East and the conference.
Week 14 Fantasy Waiver Wire: The players you add this week are either hopping onto your playoff-bound roster or you’re picking them up in hopes they help you sneak into the postseason. Jen Piacenti has recommended pickups at every position to assist your team.
Bye Week Blues: Celebrate! This is the last bye week of the season. But your roster is down quite a few fantasy stars with the Colts, Eagles, Dolphins and Patriots idle. Missing Jonathan Taylor and Jalen Hurts, well, hurts. See how you can make up for their absences.
OC Joe Brady Out in Carolina: The Panthers’ offensive coordinator was fired less than two seasons after making the jump from LSU to the professional ranks.
IDP Waiver Wire Report: Matt De Lima has players at every level on defense who are worth an add to your roster as the season winds down. Kwon Alexander, Juan Thornhill and Chris Wormley headline the recommendations. See who else made the cut.
Keenan Allen Placed on COVID-19 List: The Chargers wideout is a key part of LA’s top-10 scoring offense and his status for Week 14 against the Giants is in doubt.
NBA and Fantasy Basketball
Guest picker Doug Vazquez and I will be picking the Nets vs. Mavericks game, as well as the Celtics vs. Lakers game for the latest edition of NBA SO/UP. You can find the article online later today at si.com/betting.
Latest Power Rankings: The Suns took the Warriors’ top spot after splitting a pair of games with Golden State last week. The health of Devin Booker’s hamstring is a concern moving forward, but winning 18 in a row warrants being ranked No. 1.
DeMar DeRozan in Health and Safety Protocols: Chicago’s offseason acquisition has helped propel the Bulls to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. It’s unclear if he will miss Wednesday’s game against Cleveland after missing his first game of the season Monday.
College Football and Hoops
Dozens of college basketball teams are in action tonight, including six in the top 25. Kevin Sweeney rejoins me as a guest picker to help pick the Jimmy V Classic featuring Texas Tech vs. No. 13 Tennessee and No. 6 Villanova vs. Syracuse.
Visit si.com/betting later today to read our insight and picks for each game.
Heisman Finalists Announced: Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson are the finalists for college football’s most prestigious award. The winner will be announced Saturday.
Purdue Takes Top Spot in Latest AP Poll: The Boilermakers (8-0) are the top team in the poll for the first time in program history following then-No. 1-ranked Duke losing to Ohio State last week.
That’s all for today, I’ll be back in your inbox Thursday morning.