The semifinals return to New Year’s Day in 2018 with the Rose and Sugar bowls.
Controversy seems to repeat every year on whether the college football playoff system needs to add four more teams, but if the lines for both games are any indication, we could be in for two competitive national semifinals. Top sports books opened with Georgia as a 2-point favorite over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and Alabama by 2 1/2 over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. You can check BetOnline for daily line updates as New Year’s Day draws near.
Rose Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Oklahoma Sooners
As far as Georgia’s defense is concerned, there’s really just one Oklahoma player to focus on: Baker Mayfield, Baker Mayfield, Baker Mayfield!
Dominick Sanders and the rest of the Georgia secondary will have stick to the Sooners’ receivers and the Dawgs’ front seven must blow through gaps and come hard off the edges to apply constant pressure. If Mayfield has time to throw and his receivers have room to roam, expect the Heisman winner to put a sadistic and cruel beating on the Georgia defense. If that happens, this game could easily turn into a back-and-forth barnburner with an OU defense rated 81st nationally.
If Georgia’s defense can get Mayfield off the field long enough, the Bulldogs will have a legitimate shot at controlling the clock and winning the game with their top-notch rushing attack of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
That said, the last thing the Bulldogs want or need to do is get into a scoring shootout with Mayfield.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Clemson Tigers
Though many are unhappy with two SEC schools in the bracket, it’s tough to leave out a one-loss team in favor of one that’s lost twice, even though Ohio State’s résumé appears quite a bit better. Additionally, nobody wanted to see a Clemson-Ohio State rematch.
Talk about a closely matched game! Defensively, these teams are stout as they come ranking Nos. 1 and 2 nationally as the toughest to score upon. Alabama has allowed opponents just 11.5 points per game, while Clemson gives up an average of just 12.8. Offensively, the Crimson Tide has averaged 39.1 points while Clemson have put up 35.4.
The main difference between the past two Alabama teams and Clemson’s is on the offensive side. Though Alabama doesn’t have 2017 first-round pick TE O.J. Howard anymore (314 yards and 3 TDs over both national title games), Clemson will be missing more prolific weapons including QB Deshaun Watson, RB Wayne Gallman and WR Mike Williams.
The Tigers can still run up big numbers, but they’re not close to being the dangerous unit the Crimson Tide defense has faced over the past two years. Trying to nickel-and-dime your way to a win against this Alabama defense won’t be an easy task. Expect Alabama to squeak out a low-scoring revenge victory.