College Football Playoff Preview: Heavyweights Set To Duel On New Year’s Day

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After 13 weeks of college football action, the playoff teams were revealed. The entire college football following waited to see who the committee would put in the fourth slot. Both Alabama and Ohio State were deserving, but ultimately, a 55-24 loss at Iowa doomed the Buckeyes.

We were set: Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama.

Now, today, we will figure out who moves on to the championship game next Monday and who will come up one game short. Let’s take a look at each game.

(2) Oklahoma vs. (3) Georgia, Rose Bowl, 5 ET

The first game of the day features Heisman winner Baker Mayfield pitted against the biggest surprise of the year in the Georgia Bulldogs. While many didn’t see Mayfield as a legit quarterback at the next level, he has erased the doubters with another fantastic season. The Oklahoma offense has been rolling, with over 580 yards per game. Baker Mayfield deserves a lot of the credit, but the running game has been productive as well. Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon are dangerous on the ground, and Georgia will certainly have to pay attention. The Big 12 isn’t known for defense, but the Sooners are opportunistic when it comes to defense. Playing a freshman quarterback could give them the opportunity to take a couple throws the other way.

As far as Georgia goes, they were left for dead when their starting quarterback went down. But, freshman Jake Fromm has done plenty for this team. Of course, they have relied on the running game and their defense. The trio of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and DeAndre Swift will be a nightmare for the Oklahoma defense. If they can’t contain them, it could be a long afternoon. Plus, the Georgia defense loves having the lead. It allows them to get aggressive with their linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith.

Who Has The Edge?

Yes, Baker Mayfield hasn’t played a defense of this caliber. But, don’t expect them to get shut down. Mayfield is a true competitor who has the weapons around him to move the football. However, the edge comes on the other side. The Georgia Bulldogs have the offense to limit the Sooners offensive possessions. Third down ultimately becomes the key, as it has in so many bowl games already. Georgia has the team to create third and short situations, and they can get off the field on third down.

Bulldogs 34, Sooners 27

(1) Clemson vs. (4) Alabama, Sugar Bowl, 8:45 ET

The Sugar Bowl pits familiar foes against one another. The last two national title games featured the two teams you see here. Two years ago, Alabama rode some serious defensive and special teams plays to a title. Last year, DeShaun Watson etched his name among the college football greats with a last minute drive to win with one second on the clock. This is part three, and it might not be the last meeting.

The Clemson Tigers return many players from last year’s team. Their biggest strength is being able to control the line of scrimmage with their defensive line. Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Austin Bryant will make life difficult for the Alabama offense. The offense is still rolling, even with a young quarterback in Kelley Bryant. He has enough weapons around him to move the ball down the field, most notably wide receiver Deon Cain. Travis Etienne is a young running back to watch, as he runs with speed and power.

On the other side, the Crimson Tide are underdogs, even if the Vegas lines don’t say so. They squeaked into the playoff with many objecting. Coach Nick Saban knows how to get his team ready. They have all the experience in the world heading into this game. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts knows what winning a playoff game looks like, and what losing a playoff game looks like. The experience he has will be valuable. He also has the weapons around him. Calvin Ridley is a monster in space. Running backs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris can carry the load. The other side of the ball is loaded with draftable talent. Da’Ron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand are quick for their size on the defensive line. Rashaan Evans is nearly as good as Roquan Smith when it comes to the nation’s best linebackers. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison might be the best safety duo that Alabama has ever seen. Clemson will certainly be tested by this defense.

Where’s The Edge?

It was early in the season, but Auburn played Clemson tight by not turning it over and limiting big plays. Alabama will need to do that tonight. However, even though they have Evans, their linebacking core is real thin. Clemson may be able to take advantage of the middle of the field. Also, even though they are more experienced, Alabama could struggle handling the Clemson defensive line.

Clemson 27, Alabama 24

 

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