TheLines Lookahead: College Football Playoff Semifinals Kick Off The New Year, NFL Wraps Up Regular Season

Written By Brett Gibbons on December 28, 2020
Najee Harris Alabama football

The final week of 2020 and first few days of 2021 will provide plenty of sports action as bowl season reaches its climax, the NBA regular season enters its second week and the NFL wraps up its regular season. Here we will take a glance at the top sports betting storylines for the week ahead.

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Bucks vs. Heat – Tuesday and Wednesday

The Miami Heat are coming off a miraculous season in which they scorched a path right to the NBA Finals. While they were bested in six by the L.A. Lakers, the Heat showed that they are here to stay. Miami has started their season 2-1 while scoring over 105 points in each game so far. Despite being the defending Eastern Conference champs, the Heat are just third at most sportsbooks to win the conference this season (+700 at FanDuel Sportsbook). The Bucks (+230) are the favorites along with the Nets (+200) to represent the East in the 2021 Finals. It’s a battle between two powerhouses early in the NBA season, and they will meet one another on back-to-back nights.

Cotton Bowl: No. 7 Florida vs. No. 6 Oklahoma – Wednesday

 

In what might be the most entertaining non-CFP matchup this bowl season, two of the most explosive teams in the nation face off. Kyle Trask was named a Heisman finalist last week, while Oklahoma failed to put a player in the finalist group for the first time since 2015. Florida went toe-to-toe with Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Oklahoma hasn’t lost since its third game (Iowa State) and was able to redeem a loss to the Cyclones in their conference championship game. Florida () is a light favorite in a game that’s sure to have plenty of fireworks.

CFP Semifinals – Friday

First up is No. 4 Notre Dame, which has plenty of questions surrounding their worthiness of their CFP spot, facing No. 1 Alabama, which has been a juggernaut all season long. The Tide is as a massive point favorite – further raising questions as to why Notre Dame was chosen over Texas A&M or Cincinnati. With the odds stacked against them, the Fighting Irish will be looking to prove a point in this one. Next, it’s a battle between familiar foes in No. 3 Ohio State and No. 2 Clemson. While the Tigers have beaten up on the Buckeyes in the CFP so far, Ohio State has plenty of fuel after Dabo Swinney ranked them 11th in his final coaches poll. The rivalry runs deep in this one, with their past three matchups coming in either a CFP semifinal or a New Year’s Six bowl game. Clemson is currently a favorite.

NCAAB: No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 11 Rutgers – Saturday

Luka Garza continues to be as good as advertised. The Hawkeyes’ offense has been explosive, ranking third in the nation in points scored per game. They were bested by a tough Gonzaga team (ranked No. 1 in the nation) and upset by Minnesota last week. Rutgers has surprised the nation in both football and basketball, but the Scarlet Knights find themselves ranked at their highest spot in the AP poll since 1975 (before joining any conference). Guard Ron Harper has been leading the charge with over 23 points scored per game on the season for Rutgers.

Steelers vs. Browns – Sunday

 

With the Steelers having clinched the AFC North and in turn a playoff spot, what’s left at stake here? Turns out, quite a bit. The Browns carry the NFL’s longest playoff drought at 18 seasons and they’re looking to break it after a bad beat in Week 16. It’s also one of the nastiest rivalries in sports that’s included much more competitive games and some bad blood the last few seasons. The Steelers were able to kick their losing streak against the Colts while the Browns are looking to avenge a 38-7 blowout loss from Week 6. With the two or three seed locked up for Pittsburgh, will they play their starters to try and knock their rivals out of the playoffs?

Brett Gibbons Avatar
Written by
Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

View all posts by Brett Gibbons