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Holiday Bowl prediction: Oregon, UNC will fall short of sky-high total

Count on the explosive Ducks, Tar Heels to put up points — just not enough to clear largest total of bowl season

Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix heads into Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl against North Carolina having amassed nearly 3,900 passing and rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns this season. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix heads into Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl against North Carolina having amassed nearly 3,900 passing and rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns this season. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)Read moreThearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Oddsmakers have made their Holiday Bowl prediction crystal clear: They expect a blowout and a boatload of points Wednesday night at San Diego’s Petco Park.

Just how big of a blowout? Oregon, which is laying nearly two touchdowns against North Carolina, is the second-biggest favorite of the entire college football postseason. (Only LSU, which is a 14.5-point chalk against Purdue in the Citrus Bowl, is bigger.)

And for the total? Of this year’s 43 bowl games, none has a higher total than the Holiday Bowl.

Our opinion? We think Oregon is getting too much respect — but we believe the total is even more inflated.

Odds updated as of 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 27.

Oregon vs. North Carolina Prediction: Pick

Under 75 points (at Caesars Sportsbook)

Oregon vs. North Carolina Prediction: Analysis

Let us be clear: There will be points scored in the Holiday Bowl. A whole lot of points, in fact.

After all, both starting quarterbacks — North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Oregon’s Bo Nix — not only decided to play in Wednesday’s game but both have said they intend to return to their respective schools next year.

This despite both being Heisman Trophy contenders in 2022 and legit NFL prospects.

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Maye (4,115 passing yards, team-best 653 rushing yards, 42 total touchdowns) and Nix (3,389 passing yards, 508 rushing yards, 41 total TDs) are dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks.

Assuming they avoid injury, the duo will do a good deal of damage in the Holiday Bowl — Nix against a hot mess of a North Carolina defense that will be missing three starters in the secondary; Maye against a sometimes-leaky Oregon defense that won’t have star shutdown cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who opted out to prep for the NFL Draft.

However, both quarterbacks will be without some important weapons — most notably, Maye.

The redshirt freshman had most of his passing success throwing the ball to wideout Josh Downs. However, Downs opted out of the Holiday Bowl after declaring for the NFL Draft.

Downs was responsible for nearly 30% of Maye’s completions (94 of 324) and exactly 25% of his passing yards (1,029 of 4,115). The sophomore also hauled in 11 of Maye’s 35 TD passes.

Meanwhile, Nix won’t have wide receiver Dont’e Thornton (transfer portal). Thornton wasn’t nearly as prolific as Downs, but he ranked fourth on the team in receiving yards (366) and first in yards-per-reception (an eye-popping 21.5).

Will Thornton’s absence dramatically slow Oregon’s offense? Doubtful — he scored just one touchdown for a team that ranked ninth in the nation in scoring at 39.7 points per game. This after managing just a field goal in a season-opening 49-3 loss to Georgia in Atlanta.

Following that ugly showing against the reigning national champs, the Ducks scored more than 40 points in seven straight games against FBS competition. However, they never once topped 50.

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Also, with Nix playing through a foot injury in the final three games, Oregon scored 34, 20 and 34 points.

Now look at the entirety of the Ducks’ FBS schedule: Oregon and its opponents combined for more than 70 points in six games. However, five of those ended with 71, 71, 72, 72 and 75 points.

The Ducks’ only game that was north of 75: A 44-41 win at Washington State way back on Sept. 24.

As for North Carolina, it averaged 35 points per game (and its defense gave up 31). But after opening the season with high-scoring wins over FCS outfit Florida A&M (56-24) and at Appalachian State (63-61), the Tar Heels played just one game that had more than 73 points.

That was a 45-32 home loss at Notre Dame (also on Sept. 24).

Over the final eight games, UNC’s highest-scoring results came in road wins at Duke (38-35) and at Wake Forest (36-34).

What’s more, since the Notre Dame game, the Heels are 6-3 to the Under. Also, Oregon stayed low in three of its final four games (the one exception being a season-ending 38-34 loss at Oregon State, which obliterated the 57-point closing total).

In summary, oddsmakers have been skewing high on the totals for both teams — mostly because they know bettors know both squads have high-flying offenses and suspect defenses.

That “inflation” is absolutely baked into this number, which probably should be closer to 70.

To reiterate: Unless Nix and/or Maye get knocked out of the game, Oregon and North Carolina will light up a Petco Park scoreboard that rarely gets much action during the MLB season. They may even get to 70 points.

But 75? That’s too much. Play the Under at Caesars Sportsbook.

And while not an official play, we think the Tar Heels — whose 39-10 ACC title game debacle against Clemson is their only loss by more than 13 points — will stay inside the two-touchdown point spread.

Oregon vs. North Carolina Odds: (via Caesars Sportsbook)

  1. Point spread: Oregon (-13.5) @ North Carolina (+13.5)

  2. Moneyline: Oregon (-600) @ North Carolina (+430)

  3. Total: 75 points

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