Two schools from the same conference have made it to the final four for the first time in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff.
Either Alabama or Georgia, two teams from the SEC, held the No. 1 ranking in the nation for most of the year until they lost to Auburn in the regular season. Both teams are now favored on New Year’s Day to beat the top two seeds in the semifinals in No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Oklahoma.
However, in nine games in the first three annual tournaments, the favorite has covered the point spread just three times (3-6). In all three final games, the underdog has been the winning ticket against the spread every time.
In the 2014-15 championship game, Ohio State (+6.5) crushed Oregon 42-20.
In the 2015-16 championship game, Alabama (-6.5) beat Clemson 45-40, but did not cover.
In the 2016-17 championship game, Clemson (+6.5) defeated Alabama 35-31.
This is the fourth straight trip to the playoffs for Alabama, while Clemson makes it three in a row. It’s the second trip for Oklahoma and first for Georgia. This is the best tournament foursome yet. And unlike previous years, there’s no clear favorite to win it all. An argument can be made for each one to hoist the trophy.
Let’s take a look at the CFP semifinals and try to pick a winner against the spread in both (odds provided by bovada.lv). The national championship game is Monday, Jan. 8 in Atlanta. Just for the record, the No. 1 seed has never won this tournament.
Unstoppable Offense Meets Top Defense
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia — This may be the best Rose Bowl ever.
And that’s saying something, considering the 2006 game where Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns surged past the USC Trojans in a last-minute 41-38 victory. That thriller is the highest-rated BCS game in TV history.
This is a classic confrontation of an unstoppable offense squaring off against an outstanding defense.
The Sooners (12-1) lead the nation with 583.3 yards per game on offense, anchored by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. The Bulldogs (12-1) are fourth in the country with 270.9 yards allowed per game on defense, led by All-American linebacker Roquan Smith.Mayfield, who has been battling an undisclosed illness all week, has had an outstanding career in his three years at Oklahoma, throwing for more than 35 touchdowns and 3,700 yards every year. His 4,340 passing yards this season are second in the nation.
The Big 12 champions average just shy of 45 points a game. Rodney Anderson is their leading rusher with 960 yards and 16 touchdowns, but other players often factor into the scoring as well — like Trey Sermon, Dimitri Flowers and Marquise Brown.
Jake Fromm has proven he can handle the big stage this season, with victories over Notre Dame early in the season and Auburn in the SEC championship. Georgia’s freshman QB threw for more than 2,100 yards with 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Make no mistake, though. The Bulldogs like to do their damage on the ground as Nick Chubb and Sony Michael combined for 2,123 yards rushing and 26 scores.
Oklahoma opened as a 1.5-point favorite, but that line has since flipped the other way. The Bulldogs are 9-4 against the spread, while the Sooners are 8-5.
The Sooners need Mayfield to be 100 per cent healthy. Even then, with this Georgia defense, it might not be enough.
VGB’s pick — Georgia (-2)
Tigers, Tide Clash For Third Straight Year
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama — This is Clemson-Alabama Part III. For the third straight year, the Tigers and Crimson Tide collide in the national playoffs.
Alabama won it all in 2015 — its fourth title in the last eight seasons. Clemson gained some revenge when it captured the crown in 2016.
The Tigers (12-1) have only one blemish on their resume, a 27-24 road loss to Syracuse in a game in which Kelly Bryant was injured. Since that defeat, the junior quarterback has been excellent, completing 67 per cent of his passes for 1,303 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The ACC champions have eight wins over teams with a .500-or-better record, including victories over Auburn and Miami. Running back Travis Etienne, with 13 touchdowns, and Bryant, with 11, lead the Tigers in scoring.
This is the 10th consecutive year Alabama has won 10 or more games in a single season.
Jalen Hurts had a decent sophomore season, but not as good as his freshman year. He threw for less yardage and touchdowns, and he was sacked more often. His number of interceptions dropped, which is a good thing considering Clemson’s defense allows under 13 points a game.
Damien Harris is the leading rusher for Alabama with 906 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Calvin Ridley leads the wide receivers with 896 yards and three scores.
The Tigers are 8-4-1 ATS, while the Tide is Alabama 5-7. Clemson is no longer intimidated by Alabama, so this should be another classic matchup between Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.