College Football Playoff Preview
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College Football Playoff Preview

How Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma are going to bring a title back to Norman

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College Football Playoff Preview
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A whole regular season of college football has passed, not without standout play or controversy. Alabama getting into the playoff over Ohio State is the biggest controversy in the playoff era so far and with reason. The Crimson Tide should not be in this playoff, the Ohio State Buckeyes should. Yes, Ohio State lost to a 7-5 Iowa team by over 30 points at Kinnick Stadium, that is a bad loss, and yes they lost by 17 at home to Oklahoma. The Iowa loss was bad, they should have never lost by 30, but you should also take into account the history of ranked teams playing at Kinnick at night (news flash, it doesn’t typically end well). The Hawkeyes beat a top 4 team in Michigan last year on a Saturday night there and were just one play away from doing the same to a top 10 Penn State team back in early October. In terms of the Oklahoma loss, that’s a top team they were facing with a Heisman winning quarterback in Baker Mayfield and a top-notch offense that may very well win the national title. Replace Ohio State with Alabama and put that game in Tuscaloosa, and I guarantee Oklahoma beats the Tide by the same margin. That’s not to say the Crimson Tide aren’t talented, they are very, very talented. The Tide have a powerful running game, a top receiver in Calvin Ridley, a dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts, and of course, a defense that is one of the best in the nation. The Tide, however, didn’t show this against much weaker opponents. Florida State clearly was not what I or anyone else thought of them, and they wouldn’t have been a top team even if Deondre Francois had been healthy the whole season. They struggled with a seven-win Texas A&M team, struggled at their place against an LSU team that they should have beat by 20 or more, needed a miracle to beat an eight-win Mississippi State team, and got crushed by Auburn in the Iron Bowl, the only top team they faced all season, in a game that Auburn should have won by much more than twelve. In all of these games, Alabama’s offense struggled to get going, something that will continue against Clemson. Ohio State on the other hand actually beat good teams. They beat top ten Penn State at home and shut down Saquon Barkley, blew out a top 20 team in Michigan State, and then beat undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Instead of putting the team in with the actual quality wins, the committee has decided to award Alabama for beating Mercer and because it has a history as a champion, not because it’s better than Ohio State. Again, Alabama has talent, but they didn’t beat anyone who was very good, and the play they had against a top team like Auburn should have shown the committee that they weren’t that good, they didn’t even win their own division. The SEC isn’t as good as it used to be, it’s nowhere near as deep as say 2008 or 2013, but the conference has clearly not lost the luster of those glory days amongst the committee members. The committee has also set a dangerous precedent the past two years that conference titles don’t matter, and have now set an even more dangerous one that scheduling doesn’t matter. The playoff era was supposed to produce more competitive games, and it has, but now teams realize they can play Mercer week 11 and still get it over a team that has actually beaten three top opponents, meaning that sadly for the fans, cupcake games may be on the rise again. Now that I have that out of my system, time for predictions for all the College Football Playoff, including who wins the national title and why.





Rose Bowl:

#2 Oklahoma vs #3 Georgia

Oklahoma: The Sooners are here even after losing their legendary coach Bob Stoops in the offseason. Lincoln Riley, however, has filled in and made the offense even better than it was last year, due in large part to the increased play of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is a better version of Johnny Manziel (also has the same immature personality as Manziel). He’s got a much better and accurate arm and has a bigger, more NFL ready body. Mayfield has dazzled both with his legs and arm. In the air, Mayfield has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country, completing 71% of his passes with a 203.8 QB rating. Mayfield has increased the level of his play even without his top targets and running backs from last year, throwing for 4340 yards along with 41 touchdowns while throwing just 5 interceptions, slinging it around to top receiver Marquise Brown (981 yards, 6 touchdowns), all American tight end Mark Andrews (906 yards, 8 touchdowns), and CeeDee Lamb (7 touchdowns). Mayfield has 310 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns and is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks outside the pocket in the country. The success of his passing game, however, has been the solid run game behind Orlando Brown and a top-ranked offensive line. Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon have been a top 1-2 punch in the backfield, combining for over 1500 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. While the offense is flashy and gets all the glory, the Sooner's playoff hopes ride on which defense shows up. Is it the one that gave up over 50 points to top 15 Oklahoma State and gave up 38 points to Iowa State’s backup quarterback at home, or is it the one that allowed just 16 points to JT Barrett and Ohio State in Columbus and just shut down TCU twice? They have some nice players on that side of the ball, including defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (8 sacks), leading tackler Emmanuel Beal and top defensive back Parnell Motley, but the focus will be on how good their front seven comes out and plays against a run-heavy SEC team like Georgia.

Georgia: The Bulldogs were a sleeper coming into the season to compete for the SEC title, and they did that and more. The Bulldogs blew out every single opponent with the exceptions of a one-point win in South Bend against Notre Dame and a bad loss at Auburn, one they avenged by blowing out the Tigers 28-7 in the SEC championship. Georgia on offense has found balance with the surprise play of redshirt freshman Jake Fromm at quarterback. Fromm was consistent, throwing for 21 touchdowns and only turning it over 5 times, the perfect stats for a more game managing style quarterback in a run-first offense. The run game is again dominant with Nick Chubb, Sony Michaels, and De’Andre Swift leading the best three-headed backfield monster in college football. On the ground, the team ran for nearly 3500 yards behind a powerful offensive line, led by 1100 yard rusher Nick Chubb, a powerful back with great speed who was finally healthy for the full season. Michael was right there to help, falling just short of 1000 yards and putting it into the end zone 13 times on the season. Defensively, Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs defense is no joke either. With the exception of the game at Auburn and vs Missouri, Bulldogs opponents never scored over 20 points. All American linebacker Roquan Smith led the charge with 113 tackles, including 11 for loss and 5.5 sacks. Lorenzo Carter recorded 4 sacks of his own, and the secondary was led by interception leader Dominick Sanders (3 ints) and J.R. Reed. The special teams are also solid, and Kirby Smart has been here before as defensive coordinator at Alabama.

Prediction: These are two evenly matched teams with a stark contrast in styles that should lead to the best semifinal game. Georgia’s run game should give Oklahoma fits on defense, and Mayfield and the Sooners high powered, high-speed offensive attack is unlike anything that Georgia has seen this year, meaning we could very well be in for a shootout, which I think is likely. If that is the case, I like Heisman winner Baker Mayfield to lead a last-second drive for victory under the night sky in Pasadena, and carry Oklahoma to Atlanta.

Oklahoma 35, Georgia 31

Sugar Bowl:

#1 Clemson vs #4 Alabama

Clemson: The Tigers have honestly surprised me in a year where they lost DeShaun Watson, Mike Williams, and other key players following a national championship last year. The expectation was a 9-3, 10-2 team that would be top 15 nationally but a year away from competing again for a title. Instead, the Tigers are here with just 1 loss and are the number one team in the country, in large part thanks to their top-ranked defense. The Tigers on defense are second in the country in points allowed per game (12.8), hold their opponents to just 28% on third down conversions and around 277 total yards a game. The Tigers have done this through one of the most dominant defensive lines in the game, led by ends Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell, who have combined for 16 sacks and around 32 tackles for loss, and big, strong standout interior lineman in Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, combined 7 sacks. All four can pressure the quarterback, and Lawrence and Wilkins in the middle, at 340 and 300 pounds respectively, are hard to run on up the middle. Outside of the front four, Clemson has talent elsewhere that makes this a great defense. Linebacker and leading tackler Dorian O’ Daniel is versatile and balanced in both stopping the run and coverage, and defensive backs Ryan Carter and Trayvon Mullen are ball hawks with each holding the team lead with 3 interceptions each. While the defense is fantastic, the Achilles heel could be the offense. The Tigers offense is good, but it’s nowhere near the special level it was last year. The run game is the biggest part of this offense. Behind a good offensive line led by NFL prospect Mitch Hyatt, Clemson has gotten nearly 2500 yards on the ground this season being led by running backs Travis Etienne (13 TDs) and Tavie Feaster (659 yards). The man who makes this unit go however is dual-threat QB, Kelly Bryant. He’ll give defenses trouble with his legs when he goes on the run, and he has done a solid job limiting turnovers. And while Clemson’s passing offense isn’t very special this year, they still have two fast and experienced receivers in Deon Cain and Hunter Renfroe that should give defensive backs some problems.




Alabama: Even though I don’t think the Tide should have been in, they are still a very dangerous and good football team. Jalen Hurts had another great season as a dual-threat QB and did a great job at limiting his mistakes with only one interception thrown all season in comparison to 15 touchdowns. The only concern for Hurts is a low completion percentage at around just 60%. Good news for him though, he can rely on what is always a top rushing attack, led this year by Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough, combining for near 1500 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. Hurts also has good running ability himself, as he is second on the team with 768 yards on the ground and 8 touchdowns, and if any offensive line in the country can push around Clemson’s, it may be Alabama’s. An otherwise bad receiving corp is made up for the speedy, field-stretching Calvin Ridley, who has nearly 900 yards but only 3 touchdowns on the season. The defense has had problems with injuries in the linebacking corp, but they are still one of the best in the country. All Americans Rashaan Evans and Minkah Fitzpatrick are future first-round draft picks and possible NFL stars and are complemented nicely by leading tackler Ronnie Harrison, sack leader Raekwon Davis (6.5), and interception leader Levi Wallace. The biggest X-factor, however, may be Nick Saban, a coach whose pedigree goes without question, and who has always seemed to have his team ready for revenge games, which this one is, and having his players ready to play in big games.

Prediction: It’s round three for these two teams, and the rubber match after Alabama beat Clemson for the title in 2015-2016 and Clemson won it on a last-second scoring drive one year ago on a Monday night in Tampa. Saban in the past has a history he would rather forget in the Sugar Bowl, losing to Utah in 2008, Oklahoma in 2013, and three years ago watched Ezekiel Elliott run down the sideline as Ohio State upset them on the way to Urban Meyer’s third national title. The Tide are also looking to show people that they belong after all the questioning of whether it should be Ohio State at the number four spot instead. However, after struggling against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, and the lack of play against other top teams, Hurts, and this offense is going to struggle against this Tiger defense. Alabama’s defensive unit I think has a good day against Clemson and limits Kelly Bryant’s production, but the Tigers have a better offense, and therefore will get just a few more points on the board, scoring a late touchdown that sends the Tide back to Tuscaloosa and the Tigers to Atlanta to defend their title.

Clemson 24, Alabama 14

National Championship: #1 Clemson vs #2 Oklahoma

Prediction: This matchup would feature an interesting battle between a high powered, top ranked offense and a stingy, top ranked defense. Clemson has handled dual threat quarterbacks well this season, such as Lamar Jackson of Louisville, but Mayfield has a better set of skill players and offensive line around him then Jackson has. Clemson is going to make a few stops, and their offense will have better flow and productivity against Oklahoma’s shaky defensive unit, but I think this game becomes a shoot out. If that’s the case, Oklahoma has the better offense, and Mayfield has the motivation to finish off his incredible career of going from walk on to heisman winner with a last second drive that seals his legacy, and leads Oklahoma to it’s first national championship in 17 years.

Oklahoma 28, Clemson 21




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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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