College Football Forecast: CFP Semifinals

Ringing in the new year and football go hand in hand with several exciting matchups surrounding the holiday but none as big as the two contests held New Year’s day at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

Following an unprecedented 2020, the sight of the College Football Playoff to kick off the new year is a welcoming sight especially with four exceptional contenders for this year’s National Championship.

No. 4 Notre Dame vs. No. 1 Alabama - Rose Bowl

Alabama walks into this matchup as the heavy favorite as they should be following another undefeated regular season and an SEC Championship as they obliterated anyone who stood in their way. The Crimson Tide’s offense took over this season as they only played in one game where they scored fewer than 40 points.

Mac Jones has done an exceptional job in his first season as a starting quarterback for Nick Saban, landing him as a Heisman finalist. Jones torched every defense he’s matched up against as he has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns. He sits 227 yards away from the new school record for most passing yards in a single season, held by his predecessor Tua Tagovailoa.

Wide receiver DeVonta Smith joins Jones as a finalist for the Heisman with his remarkable season thus far. Smith has hauled in 98 receptions, most in the nation, and has 1,511 receiving yards which is also first in the nation. Smith will be a threat against Notre Dame like he was all year as he looks to be the first receiver to win the Heisman since Michigan’s Desmond Howard did it in 1991.

Jones and Smith have been a dominant duo in college football this year, but wait, there’s more. Najee Harris continues to be a difference-maker for Alabama in the running game as he rushed for 24 touchdowns up to this point in the season. The three-headed monster for the Crimson Tide could be devastating for Notre Dame as they are already favored by 19.5 points.

If Notre Dame can pull off the biggest upset of the College Football Playoff they will need to win the game in the trenches, which they have been able to do all season.

Notre Dame has arguably the best offensive line in the nation filled with NFL talent, including Liam Eichenberg who is a consensus All-American. Week in and week out, the line has been able to open up holes for freshman running back Kyren Williams allowing him to run for 1,061 yards.

It will be Williams and quarterback Ian Book who will have to control the tempo in order for the Fighting Irish to gain an edge in this matchup. Book has done a tremendous job developing into a solid college quarterback, who could find himself playing on Sundays.

Notre Dame also has the advantage of possessing one of the better defenses in the nation, holding opponents to under 20 points each game. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has led this defense this season also becoming a consensus All-American.

The Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide matchup for the first time since Alabama walloped Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. All signs point towards Bama in this game, but Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly look to make some noise on the first of the year.

Prediction: Alabama wins 34-21

No. 3 Ohio State vs No. 2 Clemson - Allstate Sugar Bowl

Although both games will be very competitive, the contest between Ohio State and Clemson will be a heated matchup and the marquee game of the College Football Playoff Semifinals.

Just like Alabama, Clemson is well known around these parts as this contest marks their tenth game in the College Football Playoff. Last year, Clemson held on to defeat Ohio State in the semifinals following a miscommunicated endzone toss by Justin Fields that was intercepted by Nolan Turner.

The bad blood has continued to boil as Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney ranked Ohio State 11th in his coach’s poll to finish the season. Swinney admitted that it was not that they are not good enough to be there, but they have played only six games.

Just the ranking alone has added fuel to the ongoing fire that’s burning underneath Ohio State as they have been toyed by Clemson both times they faced off in the CFP. The other instance came when the Tigers shutout the Buckeyes 31-0 in 2016.

Ohio State does bring its fair share of firepower to the field as they are averaging 529.2 yards a game while scoring 42.5 points per game. Justin Fields has led this team with his ability to read the defense and move out of the pocket when necessary. Fields will be excited to get back trustee receiver Chris Olave, who missed time due to a positive case of COVID-19.

The running back duo of Trey Sermon and Master Teague III will be on full display as well against Clemson. Sermon will be the feature back following his dominant performance in the Big Ten Championship in which he ran for 331 yards, breaking the championship game rushing record and breaking Ohio State’s single-game rushing record.

Clemson will counter the Buckeyes’ electric offense with their own, which is led by one of the best NFL prospects in recent history, Trevor Lawrence.

Lawrence and the Tigers are looking for their second National Championship in three years and have the capabilities to do so. Lawrence has been able to spread the ball around to his offense, which makes this team that much scarier. His play-action ability and escapability make the Clemson offense one of the most feared units in the nation.

Seven different players for Clemson have over 200 receiving yards, while Travis Etienne hs led the rushing attack with 882 yards on the ground.

The biggest difference-maker in this game will be Clemson’s stout defense, which has held offenses to 17.5 points per game. Full of playmakers, this defensive unit will look to disrupt Fields and the Buckeyes’ offense as well as force turnovers, which they have done 22 times this year.

Ohio State’s best chance to win a National Championship was last year, and they failed to do so. They do not have as complete of a roster as Clemson does and that will be showcased in this matchup. Lawrence and the Tigers will take care of the Buckeyes and move on to their fifth National Championship game in the CFP era.

Prediction: Clemson wins 37-24