College Football Playoff Preview
Bring in 2021 with college football – New Year’s Day has the two semi-finals for fans to dig their teeth into. Alabama Crimson Tide face Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first of the two games, kicking off at 4pm EST.
Clemson Tigers match up with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the night game in New Orleans. The Tigers are looking to make up for their loss in the final last year, and they will be hoping to repeat last season’s success over Ohio State.
Early college football betting odds unsurprisingly favor the Alabama and Clemson to make the championship game – here are two quickfire previews of the January 1st headliners.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Crimson Tide made history in a disrupted 2020, becoming the first team to go 10-0 against their SEC rivals. Arriving in the semis as the top seed, Alabama are the undisputed favorite to win this game – some spreads go into the high-teens in their favor.
There’s a marked talent gap between these two teams, despite Notre Dame’s strong season. Some experts predict as many as six of this Crimson Tide roster will be selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Fighting Irish are short on top end talent, but they have a good offensive line and in Ian Book, they have a quarterback with a stellar record (30-4, second most passing yards in school history).
As impressive as Book has been at times, Notre Dame’s chances in this game may well come down to their running game. It will allow them to dictate the pace and keep Alabama’s dangerous offense off the field. How will the Fighting Irish’s offensive line fare against the Tide’s powerful front seven?
The Tide are the favorites to win the championship. It’s easy to see why – they have a complete team, and recorded a brilliant win in the SEC Championship game. Alabama would have to suffer a meltdown, or lose key players, for this to be a close game. Betting them to cover 19 points is a bit ambitious, though, so let’s back a high-scoring game.
Pick: Over 66 points
Clemson Tigers vs Ohio State Buckeyes
These two teams played out a thriller at this stage in 2019. Trevor Lawrence earned MVP honors thanks to an inspired performance, leading Clemson to a comeback win after falling 16-0 behind. Lawrence, the consensus first overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft, will duel once again with Justin Fields.
Clemson have one loss all year. That came to Notre Dame when Lawrence was sidelined after a positive COVID-19 test. The Tigers saw off the Fighting Irish in the ACC Championship game last weekend – Lawrence amassed 322 yards and a brace of touchdown passes.
It’s hard to get an understanding of how good Ohio State is. A late start to the campaign, and multiple COVID-19 cancellations, have seen them play just six games this season. That was, controversially, enough for the three seed, booking their New Year’s Day date with Clemson.
All eyes are on Fields for this one. Matching Lawrence might be an impossible task, but his draft stock could plummet if he struggles. The Buckeyes quarterback has had issues against elite defenses this season, and the two second half interceptions when these teams met in 2019 are still relatively fresh in the memory.
Unfortunately, the competitiveness of this game could come down to the coronavirus. Ohio State were without several key players for their last game – they must be at full strength to have a chance of victory.
Clemson have sufficient pass rushing talent to put Fields under pressure. If Lawrence keeps up his lofty standards, they should win this easily.
Pick: Clemson -7