It’s that time of the year again. The birds are flying south, snow will be on the ground soon, and the bowl season is starting. With the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff (CFP) going quite well with three exciting games in 2014, the standards for this year’s tournament are quite high. Let’s look at the teams that are vying for a national championship:
The Tigers simply dominated most of their opponents this season, with wins of 58-0, 49-10, and 41-10. With dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson leading the charge, Clemson had almost 3,000 rushing yards this season, not to mention almost 4,000 passing yards; however, the team is not all offense, as demonstrated by their goal-line stand to preserve a win against Notre Dame. This senior-led squad certainly has oodles of talent and future NFL draft picks, but its lack of quality opponents could come back to haunt them.
Alabama’s offense can be summed up in two words: Derrick Henry. Although Jake Coker is a fine quarterback, without Henry, the Crimson Tide would not be even close to where they are today. Opponents can game plan as much as they want for Henry, but, behind a massive offensive line, it remains a herculean task to slow him down. Alabama’s kicker, Adam Griffith, gives the team a secret weapon of sorts, with a range extending past 50 yards.
Michigan State (12-1):
The Spartans are one of the grittiest teams out there; although they don’t have any offensive stars, they continue to churn out yardage and find a way to win. Connor Cook is playing injured right now, but he still has the ability to avoid turnovers and make the occasional big play. On defense, defensive end Shilique Calhoun is an absolute wrecking ball, routinely getting into the backfield and stuffing runs. If the Spartans can control the pace of the game, they will most likely win.
Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine lead what is the best offense left in contention. Mayfield, while not as much of a scrambler as Deshaun Watson, can run with the best of them if the Sooners need him to; however, star wide receiver Sterling Shepard makes sure that his quarterback runs as little as possible, making spectacular catches all season long. The Sooners are not playing for just their team but also for the entire Big 12, as the conference was excluded from the CFP last year.
Clemson v. Oklahoma Prediction:
Oklahoma has played much higher quality opponents this season than its ACC counterpart, in part because of the natural strength of each conference, and that will show in this game. Clemson’s defense has not played a team on the level of Baker Mayfield so far this season, and, if Mayfield can at least match Deshaun Watson, the Sooners will win. Look for Samaje Perine to have an outstanding game in an Oklahoma win, carrying over the momentum from three straight weeks of wins over ranked opponents. Oklahoma 27, Clemson 17
Alabama v. Michigan State Prediction:
These two teams are almost mirror images of each other style-wise; however, the difference is that Alabama has better players. The Crimson Tide will dare Connor Cook to make the big plays, and, especially considering his shoulder injury, he will not make them. Look for Derrick Henry to ice the game with power runs in the fourth quarter. Alabama 23, Michigan St. 10
Alabama v. Oklahoma Championship Prediction:
These two teams come from the two regions where football is most adored: the South and the Midwest. Alabama has only one more win than Oklahoma all-time, so these two teams could be tied in the category that matters most after this tournament. These teams are evenly matched, and the game will start out close, with Baker Mayfield and Jake Coker leading the teams to halftime at a tie score. Ultimately, Derrick Henry will put the team on his back, break off for a large gain, and Alabama will win its record fifteenth national championship.