It has been nearly a month since the teams for the College Football Playoff semifinals were announced, and Saturday, the games will finally be played. Top-ranked LSU faces No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. No. 2 Ohio State will face No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The LSU-Oklahoma College Football Playoff semifinal has the most lopsided line since the inception of the CFP in 2014. LSU opened as an 11-point favorite, but the line has since moved to 13.5. The other CFP semifinal is a much tighter contest. Clemson opened as a 1-point favorite, and the line has since moved to two.
There are two other bowl games on Saturday, but they might get lost in the hoopla of the CFP semifinal. The Camping World Bowl features Notre Dame against Iowa State at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. at 12pm (EST). The Cotton Bowl Classic, which also begins at noon (EST), pits Penn State against Memphis at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Notre Dame is favored by 3.5 points, while Penn State is a 7-point pick.
Oklahoma Huge Underdog in CFP Semifinals
LSU-Oklahoma will be the first College Football Playoff semifinal game, and oddsmakers don’t believe it will be much of a contest. Sooners coach Lincoln Riley told reporters on Friday that his team is better than many believe.
“I don’t think you’re sitting here at the College Football Playoff if your team hasn’t gotten quite a bit better, and I think we have,” Riley said. “I think we’ve had different challenges throughout the year, and we’ve been able to face most of them and come out on the good end.”
LSU linebacker Patrick Queen offered some bulletin board material when he posted on Twitter about the Tigers’ opponent.
“OLine not great, running backs not great … We are gonna dominate them. I am very confident in what we got,” Queen wrote.
Ohio State-Clemson Defenses Must Contain Offenses
The key to the second CFP semifinal will be the defenses. Clemson is No. 1 in total defense, and Ohio State is second. The Buckeyes are led by Heisman Trophy candidate Chase Young.
If Clemson’s defense has a weakness, it’s against the run. The Tigers are ranked ninth in stopping the run, and Ohio State running back JK Dobbins will have to exploit that if the Buckeyes are going to win this game.
One area of concern for OSU head coach Ryan Day is quarterback Justin Fields. He had an unspecified knee surgery, and has been wearing a knee brace in practice this week. Day quickly brushed off concerns about his quarterback.
“He’s doing great,” said Day in Friday’s press conference.
Cotton, Camping World Bowls Opening Act
Unfortunately for the Camping World Bowl and the Cotton Bowl Classic, they are starting at the same time, and will be completely overshadowed by the Peach and Fiesta bowls later in the day. The matchups for both of the early games are intriguing.
Notre Dame, which was one of four teams in the CFP semifinals last year, finished 10-2 in 2019. That wasn’t good enough for a New Year’s Day bowl. They will be facing the only non-ranked team on Saturday. The Cyclones are ranked 20th in total offense, but Notre Dame is ranked 21st in total defense, the best Iowa State has faced all year.
Penn State and Memphis could be an offensive explosion. The Nittany Lions are motivated after getting snubbed for the Rose Bowl, and have the more talented team in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Memphis, though, has a quick, creative offense that could give Penn State fits.