It’s that time of year – the College Football Playoff semifinals are right around the corner! No. 1 Alabama will face No. 4 Washington in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl. No. 2 Clemson will face No. 3 Ohio State in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. Which teams will come out on top?
Before we know it, we will be in Tampa for the national championship game, and we have an idea which teams we might see there. Take a look at our semifinal predictions below.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Washington
To be expected, Alabama is the clear favorite to win this game and rightfully so. It’s hard to bet against a team that finished with a perfect 13-0 record, has an offense that averages 40.5 points per game and has a defense that leads the nation in points per game allowed (11.8). The Crimson Tide defense also allowed only 63.4 yards per game on the ground and two yards per carry.
Although these numbers alone are enough to impress, they’re even more outstanding when you look at Alabama’s strength of schedule this season. They’ve had some strong competition, especially when compared to Washington’s matchups. Per USA Today, Washington’s strength of schedule ranked 41st in the nation, whereas Alabama sat at No. 12. It’s not to say that Washington didn’t have a strong year, as they most certainly did and hence why they’re in the playoff. The Huskies averaged 44.5 points per game and allowed an average of 17.2 points per game. However, those numbers don’t say as much due to their strength of schedule. But it’s still impressive nonetheless.
Many football experts are predicting Alabama will absolutely roll over Washington, and they may be right. But let’s not forget Washington boasts an impressive quarterback, Jake Browning, who threw for 3,280 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Granted, we know that he has his moments of weakness, especially when faced with a pass rush. This can be deadly for the Huskies considering Alabama is third in the nation in team sacks with 45.0.
The strength for Washington will likely be their defense. Alabama has a solid offense, but it’s not like it has been in years past. For one, they don’t have a Derrick Henry running the offense. Damien Harris is an exceptional running back, but he doesn’t set the tone like Henry did in years past. Jalen Hurts has proven himself as quarterback, but we can’t forget he’s still just a freshman and prone to make mistakes. I will hand it to ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley though – they are easily two of the best receivers in the game. There’s no denying Alabama’s offense is good – really good – but if Washington wants to try to neutralize the playing field a little bit, it will be with their defense.
Washington is a good team, but we don’t think they’re any match for a team as strong as Alabama. But even with that being said, Washington will still give them a run for their money and the outcome may not be as extreme as bettors are predicting.
Our Prediction: Alabama wins 31- 24
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State
This is where things get interesting. Clemson and Ohio State match up extremely well and this game will likely be more competitive and closely matched than the Peach Bowl. Clemson averaged 40.2 points per game and allowed an average of 18.4 points per game. Ohio State averaged 42.7 points per game and allowed an average of 14.2.
Like Alabama and Washington, we have close numbers here, but we can also look at strength of schedule to determine which one might be more impressive. Per USA Today, Ohio State ranked seventh in strength of schedule and Clemson ranked 34th. Both teams boast impressive statistics, but in this case, the Buckeyes’ stats carry a bit more weight. Either way, both teams are used to putting up big numbers and keeping other teams to a low number, so it will be interesting to see how the strategy is adjusted with teams so evenly matched.
The nation’s top quarterback Deshaun Watson will obviously be a focal point for the Tigers. The Heisman Trophy contender finished with 4,400 total yards and 43 touchdowns. But can this playmaker hold up against Ohio State’s top notch defense? Watson threw 15 interceptions this season and Ohio State’s secondary racked up 19 interceptions. The Tigers must protect the football or things could go downhill quickly.
Clemson’s offensive strategy will also center around wide receiver Mike Williams, who finished the year with 79 receptions for 1,114 yards and 10 touchdowns. Williams is Watson’s go-to playmaker, but let’s not forget that both teams’ ground game will play a significant role in this game.
Although Clemson relies heavily on Watson’s throwing arm, their ground game is crucial. Wayne Gallman’s numbers might be lower than last year, but there’s no denying that when the Tigers’ offense clicks, Gallman is a key component. He’s the main weapon in the backfield, finishing the season with over 1,000 yards rushing. And let’s not forget Watson can run the ball, too – he finished the season with 529 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
The Buckeyes also have a 1,000-yard rusher on their side. Mike Weber led Ohio State with 1,072 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Curtis Samuel has been an explosive playmaker, leading the team with 65 catches for 822 yards and seven touchdowns and 91 carries for 704 yards and eight touchdowns. And how can we forget quarterback J.T. Barrett? Although his passing game has had issues at times, especially against top opponents, he does know how to run the ball. He finished second on the team with 847 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
While it may be true that defense wins games, it’s going to be a battle on the ground for these two teams – a battle that could very well change the outcome of the game.
This is going to be one heck of a playoff game, but we see Ohio State slipping by to beat Clemson by a field goal.
Our prediction: Ohio State wins 37-34
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