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Texas vs. Washington: Picks, best bets for Sugar Bowl, CFP Semifinal on Monday

The stage is set for the second CFP semifinal as the Longhorns and Huskies meet in New Orleans tonight. Texas enters the Sugar Bowl as the favorite.

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2024 College Football Playoff is finally here and and the second semifinal game this evening will pit the No. 2 Washington Huskies against the No. 3 Texas Longhorns at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Kickoff for this matchup will take place at 8:45 p.m. ET and the game will air on ESPN.

Texas (12-1, 8-1 Big 12) lived up to lofty preseason expectations, winning the Big 12 title in its final year in the conference and making the College Football Playoff for the very first time. The Longhorns picked up a season-defining victory in Week 2 when they went into Tuscaloosa and defeated future SEC rival Alabama. Outside of close loss to arch rival Oklahoma, UT marched right through it conference schedule and ultimately blew out Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers took full command of the offense in his second year as the starter and solidified himself as the leader of the Longhorns. He threw for over 3,000 yards while completing roughly 71% of his passes, tossing 21 touchdowns through the air while using his legs for five on the ground. Ewers was aided by two elite wide receiver weapons in Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell, both of whom combined for just under 1,800 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. On the ground, running back Jonathon Brooks managed to crack 1,000 yards before suffering a season ending ACL tear against TCU on November 11. His injury opened the door for the likes of Jaydon Blue, CJ Baxter, and Keilan Robinson to form an impressive committee in the final weeks of the regular season.

Where Texas was also dominant was on the defensive front, and it had arguably the best defensive tackle duo in the country in T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II. At 6’4”, 362 pounds, Sweat was a force of nature on the interior and ended the season with 42 tackles, eight TFLs, four pass deflections, and two sacks. His postseason accolades included the Outland Trophy and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, along with being named a unanimous All-American. Linebacker Jaylan Ford was flying around all season long with 91 tackles while in the secondary, defensive backs Michael Taaffe, Terrance Brooks, and Jerrin Thompson combined for nine interceptions.

Washington (13-0, 9-0 Pac-12) ran the table to become the final Pac-12 champion and is back in the CFP for the first time since 2016. The Huskies jumped out to an impressive 5-0 start to the season before surviving a big-time showdown against rival Oregon in one of the best games of the entire season. They’d experience a handful of close calls down the stretch, but remained unbeaten and once again defeated the Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The face of Washington this season was sixth-year senior quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who put together an excellent campaign and ultimately finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up. He completed roughly 66% of his passes and threw for over 4,200 yards for a second straight season. Penix was incredible and he was helped tremendously by two NFL caliber receivers in Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk, both of whom cracked 1,000 yards. Odunze was a Biletnikoff Award finalist with 1,428 yards and 13 touchdowns, an impressive season that has him creeping up NFL Draft boards as a potential top 10 pick. Not to be forgotten is Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson at running back, who racked up over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Huskies.

UW’s explosive offense overshadowed the fact that it had plenty of guys on defense who could fly around and make plays. Look no further than defensive end Bralen Trice, who earned First Team All-Pac 12 honors with 41 tackles, five sacks, and two passes defensed for the season. Texas fans may remember him from last year’s Alamo Bowl, where he earned Defensive MVP in the game with five tackles and a sack. Also earning First Team All-Pac 12 honors was linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, who had 83 tackles, three sacks, and an interception on the year.

SP+ Rankings

Texas: 6 overall, 6 offense, 10 defense
Washington: 11 overall, 4 offense, 45 defense

List of injuries and players opting out of game

Texas

RB Jonathon Brooks – Out (Torn ACL)
WR Casey Cain – Questionable (Transfer Portal - UNLV)
QB Maalik Murphy – Out (Transfer Portal - Duke)
WR Isaiah Neyor – Out (Transfer Portal)
WR Xavier Worthy – Will Play (Ankle)
DB Ryan Watts – Questionable (Undisclosed)
DB Austin Jordan – Questionable (Undisclosed)

Washington

WR Taeshaun Lyons – Out (Transfer Portal)
QB Dylan Morris – Available (Transfer Portal)
RB Tybo Rogers – Questionable (Undisclosed)

ATS/Total

Against The Spread in 2023

Texas: 7-5-1 ATS
Washington: 6-6-1 ATS

Total in 2023

Texas: Over 5-8
Washington: Over 6-7

Team Pace

Texas: 2.25 plays per minute of offense
Washington: 2.19 plays per minute of offense

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Texas -4
Total: 62.5
Moneyline: Texas -175, Washington +145

Opening line: Texas -4
Opening total: 64.5

Weather

Weather not a factor inside the Superdome.

Our Best Bets for the Sugar Bowl

Texas -4, over 62.5

We could very well be in for a banger of a semifinal in the Superdome tonight and it should be an electric atmosphere with a trip to the national championship game on the line. The amount of skill position talent on both sides is staggering and the quarterback battle between Ewers and Penix will be a sight to see. I think Washington comes out really aggressive on offense and forces Texas to get in a track meet early on. So on the total front, I’m hammering the over.

However, I also think that the interior pressure that Sweat and company provide will eventually wear the Husky offensive line down and have Penix under duress deep into the second half. A few stalled drives/turnovers on UW’s end should give UT enough leeway to pull ahead and win the game by a touchdown. Give me the Horns to cover and book their reservations for the title game in Houston.