College Football Playoff Preview
Just around this time last year, we witnessed Tua Tagovailoa step in and lead the Alabama Crimson Tide to a national championship in what was a thrilling overtime win over Georgia. In a few weeks, we'll be gifted with the two biggest college football games of the year set to determine the participants in this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship.
With No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Oklahoma, it is looking as if the CFP committee has generated another field that has the potential to leave us with more unforgettable memories.
Let’s take a look at the semifinal matchups.
Orange Bowl -- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Alabama and Oklahoma, the two highest scoring teams in the country, are set to square off at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 29 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL.
The fact that this semifinal game presents a quarterback matchup of Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray speaks for itself. Whether Murray should have gotten the nod for the Heisman Trophy over Tagovailoa is debatable, but it is indisputable that both Heisman candidates are two of the best, if not the two best players in college football. Luckily, we will see this Heisman debate settled on the field as these two explosive playmakers will look to earn their respective teams a title game bid.
The defending national champion Crimson Tide will come into the semifinals as heavy favorites, due to an impressive undefeated season where they won every regular season game by at least 22 points, before defeating a talented Georgia team in the SEC championship in dramatic fashion.
While Alabama has yet again lived up to its customary, championship contending expectations, this season seems to have a different feel to it. Obviously, they are superb defensively, but they've been a different monster in the passing game than past seasons, which not only has to do with Tagovailoa's magnificent play but also skills players like Devonta Smith, Jerry Judy and Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa has passed for 37 touchdowns with only four interceptions thus far.
On the other hand, Oklahoma has statistically proven itself as one of the most dominant offenses in college football history. Like Alabama, the Sooners also possess an abundance of talent on the offensive side of the ball with playmakers like CeeDee Lamb, Marquise Brown and Trey Sermon.
However, Oklahoma’s playoff success will likely remain contingent on the play of its defense. The Sooners rank 91st nationally in defensive efficiency, while the Crimson Tide are second. While one might argue that our perception of Oklahoma’s defense is somewhat at fault because of the great offensive teams it has faced, such as West Virginia and Oklahoma State, Alabama will be a handful offensively, assuming Tua is healthy and good to go.
Prediction: Alabama 48, Oklahoma 34
Cotton Bowl -- No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Also taking place on December 29, Clemson will take on Notre Dame at AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, TX. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Both Clemson and Notre Dame enter this contest unbeaten with a combined 25-0 record. Aside from the prestigious reputation of both of these schools, there are some glaring similarities between them that make this matchup interesting.
The Tigers and Fighting Irish have shared several opponents throughout this season, as a result of Notre Dame's partnership with the ACC. Not to mention, both teams have remained undefeated despite changes at the quarterback position, and it's entirely plausible to assume that this game will come down to how well Trevor Lawrence and Ian Book can perform against two of the best defenses in the country.
Lawrence emerged as the Tigers’ starter in late September after a few weeks of holding the clipboard for the more experienced, and now former Clemson quarterback, Kelly Bryant. Because of this, he is yet to face a secondary with the talent and depth that Notre Dame brings to the table during his impressive freshman season.
Given the inexperience under center on both sides, the big thing to look out for is if either defense can step up and potentially make the opposing team's offense uncomfortable. I believe Lawrence will step up, and remind the college football world why he was ranked second in the ESPN 300 last year.
Prediction: Clemson 38, Notre Dame 17
Pasquale Tartaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.