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CFB Playoff: Quick Semifinal Previews & Predictions

Hey, Beer Talk fans! My name is Jay Hawkins, and I am going to start contributing here (every so often) at Beer Talk Inc. You can hear me on the latest BT podcast that is dropping Monday. Make sure to checkout my own website (fallenpylons.com) to keep up with me individually and see all the other writing stuff I have done all over the net and follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydogg. Unfortunately, I have been very busy lately and do not have much time around my laptop, but I had to get something out on the CFB Playoff. Enjoy.

 

The College Football Playoff is mere hours away, and I could not be more excited for this year’s edition. I think this might be the best four teams this committee has selected for a single year’s playoff.

Any of these teams has the potential to win it all, and that couldn’t be said most years. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Washington and Michigan State of yesteryear.)

The playoff features the new Heisman winner and a high-powered offense in Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners, a Georgia team led by a tenacious defense and a stellar run game, a Clemson team that might be the most talented team on paper and Alabama, who snuck in without winning a conference championship but have Nick Saban. Enough said. Let’s get into the two semifinal previews.

Rose Bowl: Georgia vs. Oklahoma

This game is a battle of strengths. Oklahoma’s insane offense led by Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield versus the stifling defense of Georgia led by a Butkus Award winner in linebacker Roquan Smith. That is the big storyline for this game and for good reason. However, it would be intellectually dishonest just to leave it at that.

Jake Fromm has come in at quarterback at Georgia as a true freshman (replaced injured Jacob Eason in Week 1) and has had a very good season. No, he’s not been jaw-dropping, but he has managed the UGA offense effectively and made a bunch of impressive throws against stingy defenses when he has needed to do so. That’s pretty much all one can ask from a true freshman.

Fromm has not had to do that much as Georgia’s offense relies heavily on its powerful rushing attack led by the two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at the running back position. (Keep an eye on true freshman D’Andre Swift too.)

For Oklahoma, it’s the Baker Mayfield Show week in and week out. Mayfield has been absolutely ridiculous this season, and he changes every game he plays in each Saturday (or Monday in this case).  Mayfield has been under the weather lately with flu-like symptoms. However, he made clear to the press on Saturday that it will not affect his play. We will see if that is proven to be correct. Oklahoma’s offense is not all Mayfield as Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon have both contributed in the run game.

How Georgia Can Win The Game: Control the clock by running the ball effectively and keep Mayfield off the field. That is the best defense anyone can hope to have against Mayfield. If the Bulldogs can get some stops and feed their capable backs behind a strong offensive line, they should win the game. Oklahoma’s defense hasn’t shown they can shut down something like Georgia’s offense.

How Oklahoma Can Win The Game: Turn this game into a shootout. Not many can truly compete with this OU offense. Georgia has mostly been up or barely down on the scoreboard in all of the games it has won this year. That seems to be their comfort zone. While this Bulldogs’ defense will be the best stop unit the Sooners have faced, UGA has seen nothing like the Oklahoma offense.

Prediction: Both of these programs are on the rise with two young head coaches in Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma and Kirby Smart of Georgia. These two teams will probably face off in the not-so-distant future on a similar stage. In this year’s Rose Bowl, I see the Bulldogs and their stingy defense and strong running game proving to be the difference in this one. Georgia 34-Oklahoma 31

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Clemson

The nightcap is arguably the most anticipated of both semifinals. It definitely is for me. New Orleans will play host to Bama-Clemson Part Three. I think Clemson might just be the best team in this entire playoff. However, I will never count out a Nick Saban team in a meaningful postseason game. Add to that the fact that the Crimson Tide have had an extra week of rest since they did not play for their conference championship, and the plot thickens that much more.

This Tide team should be extremely motivated after getting soundly defeated in its last game against Auburn and will benefit from having star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick back among others. Alabama is at its best when it can run the football with guys like Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough.

Clemson is the most complete team in the country in my mind. From their stout defense led by a talented defensive line to a solid offense led by Kelly Bryant at quarterback, who has done an admirable job replacing the best player in school history in Deshaun Watson, a talented receiving corps and a running back group led by the explosive freshman Travis Etienne, the Tigers have shown how great they truly are.

How Alabama Can Win the Game: Establish the run and keep their quarterback Jalen Hurts comfortable. Hurts is a great runner, but he has been often criticized for his passing ability and accuracy or lack thereof. Defense should be the least of the Tide’s concerns. This Alabama offense has proven to be explosive this season as they’ve put up over 40 points seven times this season. When Alabama has had their most success, Hurts has not had to win the game for the Tide. He might have to do that in this game.

How Clemson Can Win the Game: Play your game. I think Clemson is the better team in this game. If the Tigers can severely limit Alabama’s rushing attack and put pressure on Hurts, I think the game is over.

Prediction: As I’ve said, Clemson should win this game. They are more complete. Saban of Alabama is the ultimate equalizer at head coach, but Dabo Swinney of Clemson is on his heels. Will Swinney frustrate the Tide for the second year in a row? I think they will. Clemson 27-Alabama 24

 

 

 

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons

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