No. 1 Clemson Tigers (13-0 SU, 6-7 ATS) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Orange Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Thursday December 31st, 4:00PM EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium Miami, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLEM -4/OK +4
Over/Under Total: 64.5
College footballs opening semi-final playoff match will take place on New Years Eve inside Sun Life Stadium with the no. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers square off with the no. 4 Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl. The top ranked Tigers were the only team in college football that posted a perfect 13-0 record this year marking their only undefeated campaign since their 1981 National Championship run. Clemson is now just one victory away from competing for another National Championship but a tough Oklahoma team stands in their way.
Earlier in the year, Oklahoma suffered an upset loss to Texas at home. At the time, the loss seemed to derail the Sooners season. However, Oklahoma responded by rallying to win 7 straight games including 3 straight to end the season over top 20 teams like TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. Outside of the close win over TCU, the rest of the victories were in dominating fashion. Oklahoma averaged 52 points per game during that final 7 game stretch with an average margin of victory of 32 points. Arguably, Oklahoma has played better than any team in the country during the 2nd half of the season which makes for an epic meeting with undefeated Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
The Tigers have been a dynamic force on the offensive side of the football as well averaging 512 total yards per game and just a tad shy of 40 points per game. Both marks rank inside the top 15 teams in the country. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was among the 3 Heisman Trophy Finalist that made the trip to New York in December and many would argue that Watson did not get the respect he deserved. Watson put the Tigers on his back when they needed him the most this year as one of the most unstoppable dual threat quarterbacks in the country. Once the season ended, Watson ended with a 69% completion percentage that resulted in 3,512 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 picks. Watson also added 887 rushing yards with another 11 touchdowns on the ground.
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While Watson is Clemsons main weapon, the Tigers are still loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Wayne Gallman posted 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season and there is plenty of talented receivers in the passing game. Obviously, Clemson has proven all year that they can move the football with ease as they have posted big point totals all season. When Watson is playing well, they are nearly an unstoppable force. However, the questions that will be raised against Oklahoma will mostly reside on the defensive side of the football for Clemson.
Defensively, Clemson has been suspect at times this season. The Tigers struggled heavily against a rather poor South Carolina offense and allowed 37 points to North Carolina the next week in the ACC Championship Game. Now the defense will get their crack at an Oklahoma offense that has been lighting up the scoreboard. The Sooners have performed exceptionally well on all phases on offense. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrown for 3,389 yards with 35 touchdowns and just 5 picks. Running back Samaje Perine has racked up 1,291 yards and 15 touchdowns. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard has brought in 79 catches for 1,201 yards with 11 scores.
Oklahomas talent on the offensive side of the ball is overwhelming for opposing defenses a lot like what Clemson brings to the table with their offense. Both of these offenses know how to strike quickly and keep pressure on opposing defenses. I expect there to be plenty of scoring in this game but I think the defensive play will be the most telling. Oklahomas defense has played really well down the stretch which I think gives them a slight advantage but Clemsons defense has also played really well at times. A few key stops or turnovers could be all it takes to sway this game in one direction.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think Oklahoma is the better team and their defense will be the key to the victory. Take Oklahoma +4!
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