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The College Football Playoff semifinal games are here. Given back-to-back long weekends for the holidays, and the games falling on a Friday, the two games feel like they’ve somehow snuck up on us, but hey, a jam-packed Friday of college football is never a bad thing.
It’s time to break down both matchups and offer up picks against the spread.
Rose Bowl: No. 4 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Alabama (-20)
Kickoff: 4:00 PM EST on ESPN
A 20 point spread in a CFB Playoff semifinal shows you just how good this Alabama team is and how little faith the sportsbooks have out there in Notre Dame. While 20 points may seem like a gigantic spread, it honestly feels low to me, that’s how good this Crimson Tide offense is and how questionable the Fighting Irish defense is.
The only two games that mattered this season for Notre Dame were the two matchups against Clemson. The Fighting Irish knocked off the Tigers in South Bend in the regular season and then got annihilated in the ACC Championship game. Notre Dame allowed over 300 yards passing in both of those games, which the regular-season game didn’t even feature Trevor Lawrence. In total, Notre Dame gave up 1,014 yards and 74 points in those two games. While Clemson’s offense certainly has some firepower, it doesn’t come close to the three-headed monster at Alabama that is QB Mac Jones, WR DeVonta Smith, and RB Najee Harris.
The only way Notre Dame keeps this game close is by creating turnovers, but seeing how Jones has thrown just four picks all season, it’s unlikely we see Alabama forget how to take care of the football.
Alabama’s offense is as good as they come while Notre Dame’s defense isn’t something to write home about, at least not on a consistent basis. We’ll see the difference between athlete and playmakers in this one and the Tide will roll.
The Pick: Alabama -20
Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson (-7)
Kickoff: 8:00 PM EST on ESPN
This should be the game of the day. We’ve had both head coaches take shots at each other with Dabo Swinney ranking Ohio State 11th in his last coach’s poll and Ryan Day complaining about Clemson’s defense stealing signs. On top of that, these two teams appear to be evenly matched and feature the best quarterback matchup we’ve seen all season with Justin Field and Trevor Lawrence expected to both be Top 5 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Ohio State will be looking for revenge on Saturday having lost to Clemson in both the 2016 and 2019 CFB Playoff. Some may think that Ohio State’s shortened six-game season may be a disadvantage for the Buckeyes, but it could be a positive thing as this team should be fresh and ready to roll against a Clemson team that played 11 games.
Sticking with a simple analysis here, Clemson has looked fantastic with Lawrence under center and the loss against Notre Dame in the regular season honestly only felt like a half-a-loss so to speak. This Clemson team is extremely dynamic with Lawrence on the field and will cause problems for this Ohio State team.
The same can be said for Fields and the Buckeyes, at least that was the story for the first half of the season. Ohio State came out of the gates firing on all cylinders but has looked pretty mediocre the last few weeks. On top of that, Ohio State’s defense has looked average more often than not all season long allowing just under 360 yards per game. Clemson’s defense, on the other hand, ranks sixth in yards allowed per game giving up under 300 yards per contest.
Believe it or not, I think the defenses could be the story of this matchup when it’s all said and done, and given the line is only seven in favor of the Tigers, you can confidently roll with Clemson.
The Pick: Clemson -7
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