This year’s College Football Playoff features three very familiar faces and a new challenger in Notre Dame. Alabama was almost knocked off by Georgia in the SEC Championship but retain the top seed, facing #4 Oklahoma’s high octane offense and Heisman winner Kyler Murray in Miami. True Freshman Trevor Lawrence and Clemson will square off with undefeated Notre Dame and Coach of the Year Brian Kelly in Arlington. Even though both games feature double-digit spreads, we should be in for a treat as always on Saturday.
Orange Bowl (Miami, FL 4 PM ET)
Spread: Clemson (-12.5)
ND: QB Ian Book
Everyone is aware of the prestige of Clemson’s defensive line, and Book will have to make very smart reads and remain cool in the pocket for Notre Dame to have a shot. He may not have much help from his backs against Clemson’s 3rd ranked rush defense. Dabo Swinney is 2-1 in CFP Semifinal games.
CLEM: RB Travis Ettiene
Considered by some to be a Heisman Candidate, Ettiene will be expected to take a lot of pressure off of Trevor Lawrence. Notre Dame has a top 35 defense in rushing and passing, but Ettiene is averaging 8.3 YPC and needs to continue his dominance in order for Clemson to control the clock.
ND: DE Julian Okwara
Okwara has made a living in the backfield this season. His 11.5 TFL and 7 sacks are very impressive, but he’s going to have to rattle the cage of the freshman QB to disrupt the rhythm of a Clemson team that ranks 5th in total offense.
CLEM: DT Christian Wilkins
With a potential Dexter Lawrence suspension looming, Wilkins will have to pick up the slack and try to contain Ian Book and Dexter Williams, who has 12 Rushing TDs on the season.
Jake’s Official Prediction: Notre Dame has had a nice season, but unless Clemson plays their worst game of the season, they are going to dominate in every aspect. They will control the clock with the run and keep Notre Dame’s offense off of the field. Take Clemson -12.5, and the over. They might hit it on their own.
Clemson 48, Notre Dame 13
Cotton Bowl (Arlington, 8 PM ET)
Spread: Alabama (-14)
ALA: G Lester Cotton
With bulldozing RG Deonte Brown suspended for this game, Lester Cotton is going to have to step up his performance of late and open some holes for Damien Harris, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs. Tua Tagovailoa took a beating against Georgia, that can’t happen again against an Oklahoma defense ranked 124th.
OKLA: QB Kyler Murray
One of the most gifted athletes of our generation, Murray will have to score at almost every junction to keep up with Alabama’s offense. If he’s stopped even twice this game, that could result in a loss. Oklahoma’s defense is that bad. However, whenever Alabama does lose, it’s to a mobile quarterback who can make plays out of bad situations. Murray is a specialist in just that.
ALA: S Deionte Thompson
Quinnen Williams may be the most gifted defensive lineman Nick Saban has ever had, but Deionte Thompson is the Quarterback of a secondary that will be tested against the nation’s top offense. Thompson is a thumper with outstanding ball skills, and he will be tested against an Oklahoma team who is a threat to score every play. He’ll have his work cut out for him with Hollywood Brown and CeeDee Lamb running loose in the defensive backfield.
OKLA: LB Caleb Kelly
Kelly is Oklahoma’s best pass rusher, and Tua Tagovailoa finally looked human against Georgia because they were constantly in his face. Tua’s knee and ankle are obviously still tender, and if his uniform is clean, he will carve Oklahoma to pieces.
Jake’s Official Prediction: I think Alabama wins, but I would avoid this line like the plague. -14 seems like way too many points, however, this could be a case of Oklahoma finally being tested against a real defense and getting their teeth kicked in. On the contrary, put your mortgage on this over. There will be lots of scoring, and these teams could hit 77 by halftime.
Alabama 56, Oklahoma 38