The matchups for the 2015-16 College Football Playoff are set. Clemson ranked as the No. 1 team in the committee’s rankings in each release, and the Tigers held on for the top overall seed for the playoff. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team will take on Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which is a rematch of last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. In the other matchup, Alabama hosts Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide rebounded from an early loss to Ole Miss to win the SEC title and easily handled Florida in the SEC Championship. The Spartans used a late touchdown over Iowa to win the Big Ten title and earned the No. 3 seed over Oklahoma.
College Football Playoff Matchups
Capital One Orange Bowl
1. Clemson (13-0) vs. 4. Oklahoma (11-1)
Date: Dec. 31 - ESPN
Early Line: Oklahoma -2.5
First Impression: Expect plenty of offensive fireworks in this one. Two of the nation’s top quarterbacks – Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield – led the way for two outstanding offenses. The Tigers average 38.5 points per game, while the Sooners posted 45.8 points per game. This game also features an intriguing coordinator matchup between rising star Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma offensive coordinator) against Clemson defensive signal-caller Brent Venables. Last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl was a convincing 40-6 victory for the Tigers. Expect a much closer game this time around.
Key Question: Which defense steps up to the task of slowing down the high-powered offenses?
2. Alabama (12-1) vs. 3. Michigan State (12-1)
Date: Dec. 31 - ESPN
Early Line: Alabama -9
First Impression: A defensive slugfest is set to unfold in the Cotton Bowl between the Crimson Tide and Spartans. Alabama ranks No. 3 nationally in fewest points allowed (14.4 ppg), while the Spartans limit opponents to 20.5 a game. However, both teams have offensive firepower. Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry recorded one of the top individual performances from 2015, rushing for 1,986 yards and 23 scores. The Spartans bring a similar style of play to the table with a strong ground attack, but coach Mark Dantonio’s team has an edge at quarterback with Connor Cook. There’s also an interesting backstory between these two programs. Alabama coach Nick Saban was Michigan State’s head coach from 1995-99.
Key Question: Quarterback play. These two teams are very similar. Both want to use their defense and ground attack to carry their team. However, both offenses will need plays from their quarterback. Will Cook be at full strength after suffering a shoulder injury in late November? Will Alabama quarterback Coker continue to progress during the bowl preparation?