The committee has narrowed down the field and we’ve got our College Football Playoff matchups set. As bowl season approaches, here’s a look at the two most important contests.
No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners vs No. 1 Clemson Tigers – Orange Bowl
The top-ranked Clemson Tigers will be betting underdogs as they face the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners for a second bowl season in a row. Clemson pounded Oklahoma in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl by a final count of 40-6. However, the setup was quite different in that contest as Oklahoma had slumped to end the season in 2014.
Heading into this year’s College Football Playoff, the Tigers enter as the lone undefeated team. They are led by Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson, who is the ACC’s Player of the Year. He quarterbacks a team that finished eighth in the nation in total yards while averaging a healthy 41.3 points per game over their final eight contests.
As for Oklahoma, they are one of the hotter teams in the country right now as they’ve won seven straight. Their last three wins came over ranked opponents (Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State) with a pair of them coming on the road. Their offense has been one of the most prolific in the nation, averaging 45.8 points per game this season, which was the third-best mark in college football.
All signs point to this being an entertaining affair with the offenses being highlighted. The sportsbooks are siding with the Sooners in this one early on, listing them as 4-point favorites.
No. 3 Michigan State Spartans vs No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide – Cotton Bowl
The Cotton Bowl matchup features an intriguing meeting of two teams that play solid defense, run the ball well and grind out wins. The Spartans are early 9.5-point underdogs to the Crimson Tide, who are favored to win the CFP this season at a line of -110 on the futures.
However, Michigan State is 4-0 against ranked teams this season and is riding a four-game bowl winning streak entering this matchup (the longest active streak in FBS). They’re led by fifth-year senior quarterback Connor Cook, who is not only the winningest quarterback in school history but is also 5-1 in his career against AP Top 10 teams.
Alabama, though, is favored for a reason. They have arguably the best coach in college football in Nick Saban, the likely Heisman winner in running back Derrick Henry and they’ve also registered six wins against ranked opponents this season – the most in the country.
The defenses will be in the spotlight in this one as the Spartans ranked 19th in points per game allowed (20.5) on the season and have allowed an average of 12.5 points in the last four weeks. As for Alabama, they’re ranked third in the country in that category.