The second edition of the College Football Playoff kicks off on New Year's Eve with the Orange Bowl (Oklahoma vs. Clemson) and Cotton Bowl (Michigan State vs. Alabama). Once again, it looks like the committee got it right — putting the best four teams in the nation in the Playoff. That said, there really isn't a clear-cut favorite, as each team has strengths and weaknesses that could be the difference — all the while providing us with plenty of outrageous outcomes.
Here are my outrageous predictions for the College Football Playoff Semifinals.
Derrick Henry is held under 100 yards rushing
The Heisman Trophy winner is normally the focal point of the Alabama offense. The problem is, he'll also be the focus of a very capable Michigan State front seven. The Spartans are good enough on all three levels on defense to keep as many players as it takes in the box to stop Henry and play single coverage against Alabama's receivers. Additionally, the Crimson Tide are going to need to throw the ball often to keep pace in this one. Connor Cook and the Spartans are going to constantly challenge Alabama in the passing game, and that might turn this one into a shootout. Henry will get touches in the red zone and probably punch a couple in for scores, but don't be surprised to see him have a quiet day between the 20s.
There won't be a single sack in the Cotton Bowl
Alabama and Michigan State both bring formidable defenses to the game, but they are going up against two of the best offensive lines in the country. Alabama is a run-first team, but when the Crimson Tide throw, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin likes to get the ball out of his quarterback's hands quickly. When Michigan State has the ball, you'll see plenty of quick slants, screens and underneath routes to the tight ends and slot receivers to offset the Alabama blitz. Don't be shocked if neither quarterback hits the turf with the ball in his hands.
The Orange Bowl will be a defensive struggle
Thanks to the playmaking ability of both quarterbacks in the game, a lot of people are expecting the Oklahoma vs. Clemson matchup to be fairly high scoring. I don't see it going that way. Both of these defenses have some elite athletes who can match up well against the opponent's skill players. Let's also not forget that Bob Stoops cut his coaching teeth on the defensive side of the ball. The over/under for this one is hovering around 64.5 points, but only five of Stoops' 16 bowl appearances eclipsed that mark. Look for this one to be a physical, defensive contest as opposed to the video game-like shootout everyone is expecting.
Baker Mayfield or Deshaun Watson will catch a touchdown pass
You read that right. As previously mentioned, this is going to be a defensive struggle. When that happens, you'll often see a bit of trickery utilized in order to break through for some points. Both quarterbacks are elite athletes who — when lined up somewhere other that behind the center — have the ability to throw a defense off its game. One of these coaches is going to reach into his bag of tricks. When he does, it'll be one of the quarterbacks on the receiving end of a big, game-changing play.