The College Football Playoffs kick off on New Year’s Day with semifinal matchups between Oklahoma and Georgia in the Rose Bowl, and Alabama and Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. The winners of these two contests will do battle for the national championship on January 8.
The creation of the playoff system has not only brought a lot of extra attention to the college postseason but has also been a boon for sportsbooks as well, with more people wagering on the semifinals and final game compared to past handles.
If you’re betting on the January 1 matchups, here’s some odds for online gambling and a reason to wager each of the four teams involved in the CFP semis:
Georgia Bulldogs vs. Oklahoma Sooners (+2.5, 60)
Why bet the Bulldogs: Georgia boasts a ground-and-pound offense, chewing up 263.5 yards rushing per game this season. The Bulldogs have a two-headed monster in the backfield, with running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel recording 1,175 and 948 yards on the ground respectively while combining for 26 touchdowns. That ability to run with confidence has UGA calling run on 69 percent of snaps and dominating the football for 32:09 seconds per contest. With that kind of time of possession, Georgia can park the Sooners’ powerful offense on the bench and limit Baker Mayfield’s impact. When Oklahoma does get a crack at the ball, UGA’s fourth-ranked defense will be the toughest test OU faces all season, having rolled over porous stop units in the Big 12 all season.
Why bet the Sooners: Oklahoma tops the land in offense, posting more than 583 yards per game with a good chunk of that coming through the air. The Sooners have the best player on the field for the Rose Bowl, with Heisman winner Baker Mayfield passing for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and just five interceptions. It’s that last stat that should stand out to football bettors. Oklahoma has turned the ball over only 12 times all season – tied for 10th fewest in the country – so don’t expect Georgia to get any extra touches. The Bulldogs haven’t faced an offense this potent in 2017 and should they fall behind to OU, Georgia would have to go away from the ground game and lean on glorified game manager Jake Fromm under center.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Clemson Tigers (+3, 47)
Why bet the Crimson Tide: Revenge is the name of the game in this national semifinal. This game marks the third straight year the Tide and Tigers clash in the playoffs, most recently a win by Clemson in the national title game last January. Nick Saban will be keen on erasing that blemish from his resume, as well as the fact that Alabama missed out on the SEC Championship. The Crimson Tide are stacked head-to-toe in talent, especially on a defense that allowed only 11.5 points per game – fewest in the country. When Alabama isn’t punishing you on defense, it’s beating up on opponents with a relentless rushing attack that picks up 265.3 yards per contest. The Tide average six yards per carry and do have an experienced quarterback to lean on in Jalen Hurts, who can keep plays alive with his ability to scramble.
Why bet on the Tigers: For all the hoopla around Alabama’s defense, Clemson’s stop unit is pretty damn good as well. The Tigers give up only 278 yards per game and have stuffed opponents for an average of 12.8 points against – behind only the Crimson Tide. On offense, Clemson is a tough team to figure out with legit threats in the passing and rushing game. Quarterback Kelly Bryant closed the season with three of his best performances and heads an offense that converts on 46.73 percent of its third downs – eighth best in the country. The Tigers have the experience not to be overwhelmed in a big game like this and don’t have the same healthy fear of Bama as most opponents, after facing them in each of the past two postseason – including a victory in last year’s championship.