Hard to argue with the College Football Playoff committee’s choices for the national semifinals on December 29 as No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl from Miami, and No. 2 Clemson battles No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl from outside Dallas.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The Crimson Tide are unbeaten SEC champions (and the only team to make every College Football Playoff), the Tigers unbeaten ACC champions (in their fourth straight CFP), the Irish unbeaten independents (in their first CFP), and the Sooners one-loss Big 12 champions (in their third playoff). Oklahoma also got payback for that one defeat by beating Texas in the conference championship game. For the second year in a row, the Big Ten and Pac-12 were left out of the playoff.
Oddsmakers aren’t expecting either game to be very competitive. Alabama is a 14-point favorite over Oklahoma. That features the likely Heisman winner and runner-up in Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Sooners counterpart Kyler Murray. Actually, Murray could steal the Heisman because Tagovailoa struggled in the SEC title game before leaving with an injured ankle. He’s expected to be ready for the Orange Bowl.
If Murray follows through on his plans to play pro baseball then this could be his final collegiate game. Tagovailoa will be back next season. The Sooners lead the nation in scoring (49.5 points per game) and the Tide are No. 2 (47.9 points per game). Thus, a huge total of 79.
The Tide lost their first semifinal game following the 2014 season but have won the past three. Oklahoma has lost both its semifinal games. The schools last met January 2, 2014, in the Sugar Bowl and the Sooners were 45-31 upset winners. Oklahoma is 4-1 ATS in its past five games against SEC schools.
Clemson, meanwhile, is -11.5 against Notre Dame. What do those schools have in common? Both changed starting quarterbacks during the season, with the Tigers shifting to true freshman Trevor Lawrence, and the Irish switching to junior Ian Book. It’s also two good defensive teams. Clemson won its first two national semifinals but lost last year to Alabama in that round as the No. 1 team. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team is 7-1 ATS in its past eight bowl games.
The Tigers and Irish last played in the 2015 regular season, with Clemson winning 24-22 at home.