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College Football Playoff Preview

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College Football Playoff Preview

Eric Speelman, Staff Writer

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After a contentious debate in Grapevine, Oklahoma earned the fourth spot in this year’s College Football Playoff.

The Big 12 champion Sooners claimed the final spot over Ohio State and Georgia, the former the Big Ten champ and the latter losing to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game.

The rest of the field stood pat with No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame, who will play each other in the Cotton Bowl. Alabama and Oklahoma will square off in the Orange Bowl. Both games are slated for December 29th.

The national championship will be played January 7th at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

 

GAME-BY-GAME BREAKDOWN

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Alabama (13-0) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1)

When: December 29th, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami

Matchup: This is a game to watch, as it features two prolific offenses (combined 97.4 PPG) and two Heisman candidates in Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. However, Tagovailoa’s health is doubtful after he exited the SEC championship game with an apparent ankle injury. ESPN.com’s Alex Scarborough reports that Tagovailoa is expected to miss 2 weeks of practice with a high ankle sprain.

Murray and the Sooners boast a powerful offense, but eight of their opponents ranked 80th or below in yards-allowed-per-play. Only two of Oklahoma’s opponents, TCU and Iowa State, ranked in the top half of the FBS in that metric. Here’s how those games stack up to the Sooners’ season offensive average:

TCU:  52 points, 536 yards, 7.44 yards per play

Iowa State: 37 points, 519 yards, 7.63 yards per play

Season avg: 49.5 points, 577 yards, 8.75 yards per play

Alabama’s defense is ranked 7th in the nation, allowing only 4.52 yards per play. Can the Crimson Tide slow down Oklahoma, or are the Sooners just too strong?

To add an interesting wrinkle, OU’s defense has put up poor numbers all year, notably allowing 40 points and 524 yards to Kansas. Those stats don’t bode well for Lincoln Riley’s bunch.

Staff Picks:

Blaize Blaylock: Alabama

Erik Jendrzey: Alabama

Mackenzie Hines: Alabama

Mia Charles: Alabama

Chrisanna Melick: Alabama

 

Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Clemson (13-0) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (12-1)

When: December 29th, 3 p.m. (ESPN)

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington

Matchup: Clemson features a five-star quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, and studs in running back Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins, but the defensive line is what’s scary. Any offense they have faced has dealt with intense pressure all game long, and they could collide with Bama yet again in the championship.

Notre Dame’s offense, possibly Brian Kelly’s best, is led by quarterback revelation Ian Book, but the defense of the Irish is one to watch, boasting top linebackers Te’Von Coney and Drue Tranquill. Alohi Gilman and Julian Love anchor the secondary.

It’s almost certain that JerryWorld will play host to a defensive battle where anything could happen.

Staff Picks:

Blaylock: Notre Dame

Jendrzey: Notre Dame

Hines: Notre Dame

Charles: Clemson

Melick: Clemson

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