Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 4:42 PM
IT'S A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FEAST!!!
WE RING OUT 2015 WITH THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS - IT'S #1 CLEMSON VS. #4 OKLAHOMA IN THE ORANGE BOWL (4 P.M. ET) AND THEN #2 ALABAMA VS. #3 MICHIGAN STATE IN THE COTTON BOWL (8 P.M. ET) AND HERE'S PREVIEWS/CHARTS IN TODAY'S JIM SEZ ...HEY, WE DIDN'T FORGET THE PEACH BOWL!
Let's get a drum roll and some confetti and - what the heck - bring along some noisemakers too! The College Football Playoffs are on New Year's Eve and whatta way to say bye-bye to the 2015 calendar year and hello to a fantastic twin-bill of bowl games that will tell the tale who plays for all the marbles come the evening of January 11th.
No time to waste - the clock is ticking. Here's a quickie note and then our College Football Playoff previews plus a look at the "appetizer" on New Year's Day - a real peachy-keen Peach Bowl:
Get the College Football Playoff games - that's Oklahoma vs. Clemson and Alabama vs. Michigan State here on New Year's Eve -- plus wrap up the NFL regular season this weekend when you check with us here every day at the Jim Hurley Network. And, of course, make sure you're all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week/weekend action either online here or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
ORANGE BOWL - at Miami Gardens, FL
#1 CLEMSON (13-0) vs. #4 OKLAHOMA (11-1) - 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so we know what you're thinking: Here's the number one team in the land - the only team in this four-team playoff field and only FBS team in the land without an "L" on its 2015 record - and yet the Clemson Tigers are a field-goal underdog for this semifinal clash in the Sunshine State ... so what gives?
Well, the "R" word as in "revenge" has been bandied about for weeks now as everyone and his sister knows that Clemson lambasted Oklahoma 40-6 in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl and so the number-crunchers believe there will be payback in spades here but consider that the ACC Tigers beat opponents by a per-game average of 18.2 and that Dabo Swinney's squad bested four of its seven bowl-bound opponents by twin-figure margins.
True, QB Deshaun Watson (3,512 yards passing with 30 TDs to go along with 887 yards rushing and 11 TDs) was an offensive dynamo while finishing in third place in this year's Heisman Trophy voting (we had #2 behind Alabama's Derrick Henry) and he wasn't even part of last year's blowout bowl win due to an injury. Still, Watson must be the chief, cook and bottle-washer here especially with star frosh WR Deon Cain (see 34 catches for 582 yards and 5 TDs) sent home with two other Clemson players for failing to pass a recent drug test and this Tigers defense must force some turnovers - note Clemson's a minus 2 in the all-important takeaway category while entering this New Year's Eve tilt.
On the flip side, there's no denying the fact that Oklahoma - a hearty 7-2 against the odds when playing fellow bowl teams this year - roars into this late December game with major momentum after having won seven in a row SU (straight-up) following the dreadful October loss to Texas - and note the Sooners covered six of those year-ending seven games as QB Baker Mayfield (3,389 yards passing with 35 TDs and 5 INTs) was superb. Still, Mayfield must show some mobility here against a cat-quick Clemson defensive front seven that figures to produce some negative yardage plays.
Hey, if RB Samaje Perine (1,291 yards rushing with 15 TDs) and Joe Mixon (749 yards rushing with 7 TDs) can make some big-hitter gains on draws/traps, then Clemson could over-pursue and be in a heap of trouble.
Current Line - Oklahoma (- 3) and 64 points
Spread Notes - Clemson is a sub-par 6-7 ATS (against the spread) this year and note the Tigers enter this playoff semifinal tilt just 8-10 versus the vig away the past three seasons. On the flip side, Oklahoma is a snazzy 9-3 versus the vig this year and the Sooners are 5-1 ATS away this year after going a collective 20-22-1 spreadwise away the prior six years.
Here's the game-by-game results for Clemson and then Oklahoma (note all home teams in caps below):
|9-12||CLEMSON||- 18.5||Appala. St.||41-10|
|10-3||CLEMSON||- 3||Notre Dame||24-22|
|10-10||CLEMSON||- 7||Georgia Tech||43-24|
|10-17||CLEMSON||- 18||Boston Coll.||34-17|
|10-31||Clemson||- 12.5||N.C. STATE||56-41|
|11-7||CLEMSON||- 12.5||Florida St.||23-13|
|11-21||CLEMSON||- 29.5||Wake Forest||33-13|
|11-28||Clemson||- 20||SO. CAROL||37-32|
|*12-5||Clemson||- 6.5||North Carol||45-37|
* = ACC Championship Game (at Charlotte)
|9-12||Oklahoma||- 1.5||TENNESSEE||31-24 (2ot)|
|10-3||OKLAHOMA||- 6.5||W. Virginia||44-24|
|10-17||Oklahoma||- 4||KANSAS ST.||55-0|
|10-24||OKLAHOMA||- 15||Texas Tech||63-27|
|11-7||OKLAHOMA||- 25.5||Iowa St.||52-16|
|11-28||Oklahoma||- 7.5||OKLA STATE||58-23|
- = at Dallas
COTTON BOWL - at Arlington, TX
#2 ALABAMA (12-1) vs. #3 MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The college football landscape is littered with past matchups between "teacher versus pupil" but this one between Alabama's ninth-year head coach Nick Saban and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio comes with a little extra twist ... 'ya see, Saban and the Crimson Tide handed Dantonio and Company a humbling 49-7 Capital One Bowl defeat to end the 2010 season and let's just say 'Bama wasn't shy about piling up the points.
Okay, so if Dantonio is upset with that now long-ago result, he isn't saying but considering Michigan State hasn't lost a bowl game since you get the feeling this is more than simply a national semifinal game being played in The House that Jerry (Jones) Built ... it's a major-league grudge match.
No question the team defenses on both sides are championship caliber - note that Michigan State held its final four foes to just 50 total points this year while Alabama enters this prime-time clash having held its final four opponents to a grand sum of 40 points. The irony here is that Alabama's superstar back - and resident Heisman Trophy winner - Derrick Henry (1,986 yards rushing and 23 TDs this season) is the head-and-shoulders marquee name here in this game while Michigan State QB Connor Cook (24 TDs and 5 INTs this season) is Sparty's biggest star but would it really surprise you if this one finished 20-17 or 20-14 (note the totals price opened at 49 points and has dropped to 46.5 points at last check)?
Here's how we see two key factors in this bash:
Michigan State's trio of running backs - that's Gerald Holmes, Madre London and Big 10 Championship Game stud L.J. Scott (they combined for 1,614 yards rushing and 22 TDs) - must batter Alabama at the line of scrimmage and move the chains ... in an ideal world Dantonio would like to have Michigan State have the ball close somewhere between 35 and 38 minutes - while the other side of the proverbial coin says QB Jake Coker (2,489 yards passing with 17 TDs and 8 INTs) must hit some home run balls with WRs Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart who combined for 129 receptions, 1,493 receiving yards and 9 TDs) because expecting Henry to bang out 200 yards via the ground route (even on 40-plus carries) ain't gonna be enough.
We saw Michigan State pound out a game-winning 22-play drive to beat Iowa in the Big 10 Championship Game in Indianapolis - are we about to see more of the same against the nation's top-ranked rushing defense (74 ypg) or is Cook gonna have to be the "savior" here for the heavy-duty dogs from East Lansing?
Current Line - Alabama (- 10) and 46.5 points
Spread Notes - Alabama is 7-6 ATS overall this year and that includes a spread split in four non-SEC games. Note that the Crimson Tide covered five-of-six away games this year after going a composite 4-9 ATS away in 2013-14. Michigan State, meanwhile, is just 5-8 versus the vig this season and Sparty is 13-3-1 against the odds as underdog plays since the start of the 2011 season.
|9-12||ALABAMA||- 34.5||Mid Tenn St||37-10|
|9-19||OLE MISS||+ 7.5||Alabama||43-37|
|10-17||Alabama||- 5||TEXAS A&M||41-23|
|11-14||Alabama||- 7||MISS STATE||31-6|
|11-21||ALABAMA||- 39.5||Charles. Sou.||56-6|
- = at Arlington
^ = SEC Championship (at Atlanta)
MICHIGAN STATE (12-1)
|9-4||Michigan St.||- 16.5||WEST. MICH.||37-24|
|9-12||MICHIGAN ST.||- 5||Oregon||31-28|
|9-19||MICHIGAN ST.||- 24.5||Air Force||35-21|
|9-26||MICHIGAN ST.||- 26.5||Cent. Mich.||30-10|
|10-3||MICHIGAN ST.||- 23||Purdue||24-21|
|10-10||Michigan St.||- 13||RUTGERS||31-24|
|10-17||Michigan St.||+ 7.5||MICHIGAN||27-23|
|10-24||MICHIGAN ST.||- 14.5||Indiana||52-26|
|11-7||NEBRASKA||+ 3.5||Michigan St.||39-38|
|11-14||MICHIGAN ST.||- 14.5||Maryland||24-7|
|11-21||Michigan St.||+ 14.5||OHIO ST.||17-14|
|11-28||MICHIGAN ST.||- 7.5||Penn St.||55-16|
|*12-5||Michigan St.||- 3.5||Iowa||16-13|
* = Big 10 Championship (at Indianapolis)
The "New Year's Six" gets started with the ...
PEACH BOWL - at Atlanta, GA
#18 HOUSTON (12-1) vs. #9 FLORIDA STATE (10-2) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Is there gonna be some sort of emotional letdown here for the Florida State Seminoles? After all, Jimbo Fisher's crew was part of the first-ever playoff system last year and copped the BCS National Championship two years ago but now center stage is filled with those other guys named Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama and Michigan State and so gotta wonder if this is a "big deal" for these Atlantic Coast Conference guys.
Fisher says that won't be the case but there's already been a "distraction" with QB Everett Golson forced to miss this game with off-the-field issues and so that means Sean Maguire gets the nod but quite sure the 'Noles game plan will include 30-or-so touches by RB Dalvin Cook who managed to scoot free for a school-record 1,658 rushing yards despite battling hamstring and ankle injuries most of the year.
The Houston kids - the "champs" of the Group of Five conferences - has the more established quarterback here with slippery Greg Ward Jr. fresh off a dynamic campaign that featured 1,041 yards rushing with 19 TDs along with 2,590 passing yards with 16 TDs and 5 INTs. If first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman has his way, then the Coogs will speed things up and pressure a Florida State defense that lacks the depth from years past.
If you don't think Houston plays well away from home, then check out our Spread Notes below!
Current Line: Florida State (- 7) and 55.5 points
Spread Notes - Florida State is a nifty 8-4 versus the vig overall this season and that includes a current five-game spread winning streak. The FSU Seminoles have covered eight of their last 10 post-season bowl games but the two spread setbacks occurred the past two seasons: A 59-20 Rose Bowl loss to 8-point favorite Oregon in last year's playoffs and a 34-31 non-cover win against 11.5-point pup Auburn in the 2013 season BCS National Championship. Meanwhile, Houston is 8-5 ATS this year and that includes underdog covers against Louisville and Navy. Note that the Coogs are 16-2-1 ATS away (a rollicking .889 winning percentage) the past three years.
NOTE: NFL Week 17 previews plus the New Year's Day Bowl Games in the next Jim Sez!