CFP Quick Preview: Alabama-Notre Dame, Clemson-Ohio State

By Matthew Zimmer

Normally when I write these previews I go down the rabbit hole of research and don’t know how I ended up wherever I end up. So, for the College Football Playoff semifinals, I’m just going to keep it simple.

Let’s go.

No. 1 Alabama V No. 4 Notre Dame

Kickoff – Friday (Jan. 1, 2021) | 1 p.m. PT | ESPN

Game – Rose Bowl Game | AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX

Odds – Alabama (-19.5) | O/U – 65.5

The last time the two schools matched up, Alabama smoked Notre Dame, 42-14, in the 2013 BCS National Championship game. Bama scored the first 28 points and led 28-0 at halftime.

Sadly for the Irish, I’m expecting something similar on Friday. Yes, Notre Dame is a better team than they were in 2013, but I don’t trust them at all after that abysmal effort in the ACC title game against Clemson.

Expect the Tide to cruise past the Fighting Irish.

Alabama saw two players earn a place as Heisman Trophy finalists, quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

Jones is second in the nation for passing yards (3,739) and third in passing TDs (32). Meanwhile, Smith leads the country in receptions (98) and receiving yards (1,511), and he’s second in receiving touchdowns (17).

Oh, Alabama also has Najee Harris who leads the nation with 24 rushing TDs, and he’s No. 3 in rushing yards (1,262).

The Tide should be able to do just about anything they want against the Fighting Irish.

For comparison’s sake, Notre Dame’s QB Ian Book is 14th in pass yards (2,601) and tied for 39th in passing touchdowns (15).

The Irish leading rusher is Kyren Williams, who is 12th in rush yards (1,061) and tied for 12th in TDs (12).

Finally, ND spreads out with their receiving distribution. Javon McKinley leads the team with 40 receptions (77th in the nation) and 697 yards (37th) and is second on the Irish with three TDs (tied for 156th). Ben Skowronek leads ND in touchdown catches with five (tied for 67th).

Rose Bowl Prediction – Alabama 45, Notre Dame 17

No. 2 Clemson V No. 3 Ohio State

Kickoff – Friday (Jan. 1, 2021) | 5 p.m. PT | ESPN

Game – Allstate Sugar Bowl | Superdome | New Orleans, LA

Odds – Clemson (-7.5) | O/U – 66.5

If we get even a fraction of what we saw from last year’s instant classic between the Tigers and Buckeyes, I will be thrilled.

How can you not be excited? QBs Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Running backs Travis Etienne and Trey Sermon & Master Teague III.

Inject this game directly into my veins. I’m so ready for this one.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney believes teams that didn’t play at least 10 games don’t deserve to be in the CFP Semis. Ohio State only played six games.

The Tigers won’t have offensive coordinator Tony Elliott after he tested positive for COVID-19. So, if Clemson loses expect that to be a talking point for everyone as a reason they lost. If the Tigers win, it will be because they were able to “persevere” despite being without Elliott.

Just watch, I’ll be right about that.

As for the Buckeyes, they’re supremely motivated to beat Clemson. After last year’s collapse after leading 16-0, Ohio State wants revenge.

This game should be as good if not better than last year. Lawrence and Fields should be the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, should they both leave college.

Lawrence is 11th in yards (2,753) and 14th in TDs (22) this season, and he missed two of the Tigers games! As for Fields, in just five games, he threw for 1,571 yards and 15 TDs.

Clemson RB Travis Etienne is one of my favorite players to watch regardless of position. This guy is a problem for every team he faces, and it’s the same for Ohio State.

Etienne is 22nd in rush yards (882) but he’s tied for 9th in rushing TDs (12). So, he might not have all the yards, but he does a lot with the yards he gets.

I don’t know a lot about the Buckeyes RBs, Trey Sermon or Master Teague III, but the little I have seen … my goodness they’re pretty damn good too. In their five games, Sermon and Teague have collected a ton of yards.

Sermon finished in the nation’s top 50 (48th) in rushing yards (675) despite playing six fewer games than pretty much everyone else. Teague collected 449 rushing yards and six rushing TDs, which led the team in ground scores.

Honestly, I expect this game to be another instant classic.

Sugar Bowl Prediction – Clemson 31, Ohio State 27

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