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Final Four Primer
By Brian Edwards
The College Football Playoff Committee had an easy job this year. With Alabama, Clemson and Michigan State taking care of business on Championship Weekend, those conference champions along with Big 12 champ Oklahoma were the obvious choices.
The top-seeded Tigers will take on No. 4 Oklahoma on New Year’s Eve at Sun Life Stadium in Miami at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
Clemson (13-0 straight up, 6-7 against the spread) remained unbeaten with a 45-37 win over North Carolina as a five-point favorite at the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Deshaun Watson threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 131 yards and a pair of scores.
Oklahoma will be seeking to avenge a humiliating 40-6 loss to Clemson as a five-point ‘chalk’ at last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl. The Sooners will bring a seven-game winning streak to South Florida. They have cashed tickets at a 6-1 ATS clip during this roll with six of the wins coming by double-digit margins.
OU will playing in the Orange Bowl for a record 19th time. The Sooners are 12-6 in those previous appearances. They won the national title with a 13-2 win over Florida State in January of 2001, but it lost BCS Championship Games to Southern Cal and Florida later in the decade.
Clemson hasn’t won a national title since 1981 under Danny Ford, while Michigan State hasn’t won it all since 1966.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Oklahoma as a three-point favorite with a total of 65. The Sooners are 4-0 ATS as single-digit favorites this year, including a 58-23 win at Oklahoma St. as 7.5-point ‘chalk’ in their regular-season finale.
Dabo Swinney’s squad hasn’t been an underdog yet this season, but it has won outright as a ‘dog in each of its last three postseason games.
The Westgate opened Alabama as a 9.5-point favorite with a total of 49.5 points. The total was adjusted to 49 later Sunday afternoon. The Spartans are +300 on the money line (risk $100 to win $300).
No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Michigan St. will square off at AT&T Field in Arlington on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on New Year’s Eve. These schools have only met once in the 2010 Capital One Bowl in Orlando, where the Crimson Tide cruised to a 49-7 victory as an eight-point favorite. Nick Saban’s team is making its second straight playoff appearance after beating Florida 29-15 as a 17-point favorite in Saturday’s SEC Championship at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta.
Michigan State rallied past Iowa for a 16-13 win thanks to a late fourth-quarter drive that covered 82 yards in 22 plays. The Spartans have won outright in nine of their last 13 games as underdogs. Most impressive, they have beaten six of their last seven foes that were ranked in the top five of the national rankings.
Alabama is in search of its fourth national title during Saban’s nine-year tenure.
The semifinal winners will collide for all the marbles on Monday, Jan. 11, in Glendale, Arizona.