Despite only five iterations of the College Football Playoff to date, the battles of the country’s top-four programs have largely been must-see TV. This year’s semifinal matchups once again prove the playoff format is a superior alternative to the data-driven BCS days.
LSU – Oklahoma is shaping up to offer one of the bowl season’s largest point discrepancies, with the oddsmakers listing the Tigers as 13-point favorites. And who can blame them?
Ed Orgeron’s crew has been downright dominant just about every time they’ve taken the field, while Oklahoma has scratched and clawed through a largely mediocre Big 12 slate.
Led by Heisman winner JoeBurrow and his staggering 48 TD’s through the air, LSU is rightfully a heavy favorite. The Tigers are no one-trick pony on the offensive end, however. With three receivers putting together double-digit receiving touchdowns and an absolute bruiser in Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1290 yards on the ground, 16 TD’s), LSU is nearly impossible to get off the field.
Oklahoma’s fate rests squarely on the shoulders of Jalen Hurts, a gutsy senior who has put together his best collegiate season in leading the Sooners to their fourth playoff appearance in six years.
While Hurts’ 50 total touchdowns (32 passing, 18 rushing) offer some hope that Oklahoma can keep pace with LSU, he won’t be able to pull of the upset on his own.
With Oklahoma’s running game in flux with a banged-up KennedyBrooks and Rhamondre Stevenson’s suspension, I just don’t see Oklahoma mustering enough firepower to match the star-studded Bayou Bengals on that end.
LSU’s defense is by no means as dominant as past iterations of “DBU” have been, but they seem to be getting healthy at the right time and have a month to prepare for Hurts and the OU offense.
The Oklahoma defense is fresh off of an unimpressive performance against two freshmen Baylor quarterbacks. And folks, Joe Burrow is no true freshman.
The Sooners D, albeit much improved from the Mark Stoops era, still gave up 30-plus points on four separate occasions and somehow allowed a Kansas State team to run for 213 yards and six touchdowns for a grand total of 48 points earlier in the year. For reference, K-State did not score more than 38 points against any other conference opponent, and that was Kansas, for goodness sake!
If LSU comes to play – and there’s no reason to think they won’t – Lincoln Riley’s squad will once again come up short in the playoff due to an average defense being torn apart by a brilliant offense.
Pick: LSU -13
Ohio State and Clemson meet in one of the most exciting matchups in the post-BCS era, with both teams looking like legitimate championship contenders.
The line has fluctuated between 1.5 and 3-points in Clemson’s favor, and currently sits at a 2.5-point spread.
Ohio State features a wealth of first-round NFL talent coupled with elite playmakers at the skill positions, while Clemson ALSO showcases a breadth of first-round talent with playmakers at every level.
With that being said, I’m a major proponent of the “you’ve got to beat the champs to be the champs” school of thought. While Clemson hasn’t done much to impress with non-competitive romps throughout the ACC slate, the level of focus and determination from Dabo’s boys ever since the squeaker in Chapel Hill has the Tigers looking tough to beat.
Let’s not forget about the guy quarterbacking the Clemson attack, Trevor Lawrence. Since starting the season with an interception-laden stretch that had the sophomore at a 5:5 TD-to-INT ratio, Lawrence has thrown 29 touchdowns to just three picks over his last ten games.
With Travis Etienne’s incredible 8.2 yards per carry and a trio of NFL-ready wideouts, Clemson presents a nightmare matchup for any team, even one boasting likely first overall pick Chase Young and likely top-10 pick Jeff Okudah on the other side of the ball.
Now Justin Fields certainly hasn’t been shabby by any standard with his 50 TD’s (40 passing, 10 rushing) on the year. Despite the sophomore transfer being flanked by future NFL back J.K. Dobbins, the Buckeyes have shown some vulnerability against both Penn State and Wisconsin.
After a sluggish first half against the Badgers in the Big 10 Championship game, Brent Venables will come up with a plan to slow down the Buckeyes just enough to emerge victorious.
Give me Clemson by a score, as experience wins out to set-up a battle of the Tigers in the National Championship game.
Pick: Clemson -2.5