Happy New Year's Eve, y'all!
Let's have some College Football Playoff action.
There are mixed emotions about scheduling semifinal games on such a major holiday. Truth be told, I would rather not be working on New Years Eve late into the evening, but I'm also just watching football, so...
The opening game features the Oklahoma Sooners and Clemson Tigers, a match up of strength on strength -- the Sooners have one of the most productive offenses in the country, led by star quarterback Baker Mayfield, and the Tigers feature one of the nation's best defenses. Of course, Clemson also features a prolific offense that will attempt to solve a strong Oklahoma defense, so this is an exciting game on paper.
As Longhorns fans no doubt remember, Mayfield struggled in the Cotton Bowl when a variety of blitzes, including from cornerback Duke Thomas, forced him to move his feet early and unsettled him. The difference now is that the Sooners have re-discovered the physical rushing attack that defined the team in 2014 -- Oklahoma has run for 232 yards or more in each game since, including 405 against Texas Tech, 333 against TCU, and 344 against Oklahoma State.
There's also the subplot of the two teams meeting up again this year after Clemson laid a 40-6 beatdown on Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And the other intriguing subplot of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops going against his former defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, who has been extraordinary in the ACC as the Sooners have rather inexplicably had some shockingly poor moments defensively since the return of Mike Stoops.
Just as the first semifinal matches teams with prolific spread offenses, the styles of the Michigan State Spartans and Alabama Crimson Tide also match up -- both offenses tend towards pro style and both defenses are tough and physical. The major advantage here may be for the Crimson Tide. Not only does head coach Nick Saban feature a significant advantage in talent defensively, but offenses like that the one run by Michigan State have given Alabama much less trouble than spread attacks with dual-threat quarterbacks.
So the second semifinal of the day looks like more of a tuneup for the Tide before having to face a much more difficult defensive match up for the national championship.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Clemson Tigers (Orange Bowl/Miami, FL)
TV: Dec. 31, 3 p.m. CT, ESPN
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: The Sooners are the 3.5-point favorites
Make friends: Crimson and Cream Machine for Sooners fans and Shakin The Southland for Clemson fans.
Michigan State Spartans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (AT&T Stadium/Arlington, TX)
TV: 7 p.m. CT, ESPN
Radio: Alabama and Michigan State affiliates are available.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Alabama is favored by 9.5 points
Make friends: Get to SB Nation's team blog chats for this game at Roll Bama Roll (for Alabama fans) and The Only Colors (for Michigan State fans).