Thursday College Playoff Previews
COLLEGE PLAYOFF PREVIEWS
THE FIRST SEMIFINAL: OKLAHOMA VS. CLEMSON THURSDAY AFTERNOON IN THE ORANGE BOWL
The #1 team in the nation is an UNDERDOG in the first national semifinal when the undefeated Clemson Tigers take on one-loss Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The winner will advance to the National Championship game against the survivor of Alabama-Michigan State that will be played Thursday evening in the Cotton Bowl.
So...who's right?! The polls that have Clemson at the top of the heap? Or, the betting markets, that say Clemson is actually more than a field goal worse than Oklahoma? Can the polls be that wrong? Or, is the market once again overrating Bob Stoops before he blows another big game?
Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about Game One in the long awaited Final Four college football doubleheader!
Oklahoma: 11-1 (8-1 in the Big 12, faced #19 schedule in Sagarin)
Clemson: 13-0 (8-0 in the ACC Atlantic, faced #41 schedule in Sagarin)
Oklahoma is getting credit for playing the tougher schedule by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. But, we have to remember that some of the top teams they faced were dealing with quarterback issues on game day. There's probably not that big a difference between the schedules when you adjust for that. Both teams are very talented. Oklahoma missed their early wake-up call for the Texas game. No controversy here...these teams earned their Final Four bids in a season without any obvious super-teams.
Oklahoma: 7.0 on offense, 4.7 on defense
Clemson: 6.4 on offense, 4.7 on defense
This is why OU is favored. They're +2.3 yards-per-play for the season compared to just +1.7 for Clemson. If the Sooners really did play the tougher schedule...then this is a BIG advantage that justifies the Vegas line. Possibly...the Vegas line isn't tall enough! Both teams are capable of creating exciting highlight reels. OU has the higher ceiling.
2015 Turnover Differential
Arguably the single most important statistic in terms of who's going to cover. Oklahoma is scary good when not making mistakes. If they can keep up that pace...clean, exciting football...then it's possible that NOBODY in the country can eat them right now. That Texas game was weeks ago...and that version of OU really isn't relevant any more. Clemson's too sloppy within their spread attack. You can get away with that for awhile in a weak conference. You definitely CAN'T get away with it once you're matched up with other elites. If the teams play to these norms, Oklahoma wins by at least a touchdown.
2015 Market Performance
Oklahoma: 9-3 ATS (8-4 to the Over)
Clemson: 6-7 ATS (8-5 to the Over)
Two exciting teams...because it's hard to go Over that often when everyone knows you play at a fast pace. These two are 16-9 to the Over anyway! The Sooners have been on a tear lately, leading to a 75% cover mark for the regular season. Clemson did get the money in the ACC Championship game against North Carolina...but is still negative for the year within the markets. Another reason OU is favored by a little more than a field goal is that oddsmakers are chasing the Sooners' recent form.
Oklahoma: Baker Mayfield (243-354-5-3389 with 35 TDs)
Clemson: Deshaun Watson (287-413-11-3512 with 30 TDs)
Edge here to Mayfield. He has more TD passes on fewer attempts. He has a sparkling 35-5 TD/INT ratio compared to 30-11. He only threw for 123 fewer yards on 59 fewer tosses. If Mayfield and Watson had thrown the same number of passes, OU's passer would have won the stat category easily. There's a lot to like about both signal callers. Mayfield's been more impressive when you adjust for context.
Current Line: Oklahoma by 3.5, total of 64
With this being a neutral field game, that's a lot of respect for Oklahoma. The stats show they've pretty much earned it. They're playing better football with a much better turnover differential. It may or may not be coming against the tougher schedule depending on how you rate that. As long as they don't miss their wake-up call this time...the pointspread is at least justified. On the other hand, Bob Stoops has a long history of underachieving in big games. He makes poor choices. He panics. His players lose their composure just as the game is being decided.
Can this group of players overcome that longterm history? Answer that, and you've made your pick! In what might be a very easy cover either way. If OU makes mistakes vs. a team like Clemson, the game could get away from you quick. OU playing clean probably forces Clemson into mistakes.
You can purchase the final word for all the daily bowl action this week right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended football service through the BCS National Championship and the NFL Super Bowl, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. NETWORK was absolutely on fire during the first week of the college postseason, going 10-3! And, THE POSTSEASON WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!
ALABAMA'S THE CHAMPIONSHIP FAVORITE, WILL THEY LOOK PAST MICHIGAN STATE?
Based on all the media reports you've been hearing, there's NO WAY that the Alabama Crimson Tide are going to make the mistake of looking past another Big 10 opponent in the National Semifinal. They took Ohio State for granted last year. Ohio State took home a trophy! Nick Saban has been adamant. The players are saying the right things. Yet, those players have also been watching game films of:
*Michigan State struggling badly on offense in what was ultimately a 17-14 win over Ohio State to win the Big 10 West...
*Michigan state struggling badly on offense in what was ultimately a 16-13 win over Iowa in the Big 10 Championship game...
Alabama players KNOW they have a better defense than Ohio State and Iowa. This have one of the best defenses the sport has seen in recent years. Anything Sparty can do to scare them? If so, that innovation would have shown up in MSU's two biggest games of the year.
So, no matter what the coaches and players say about Thursday night's Cotton Bowl, there's a danger of relaxing at the wrong time once again. Michigan State has nothing to lose. Michigan State is sick and tired of hearing they don't have a chance in this one. Michigan State just spent a few weeks learning from what Ohio State did last year to stem the Tide.
Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about the second National Semifinal...and the ultimate championship hopes of the Cotton Bowl winner...
Alabama: 12-1 (7-1 in the SEC West, faced #4 schedule in Sagarin)
Michigan State: 12-1 (7-1 in the Big 10 East, faced #44 schedule in Sagarin)
Very similar records...but a big difference in schedules. Alabama thrived against one of the toughest slates in the nation. They mostly dominated except for a five-turnover debacle in a home loss to Ole Miss. Michigan State had a very weak schedule outside of Ohio State and Iowa (catching Oregon at a good time). The offense had serious troubles in those two nailbiter wins.
Alabama: 5.8 on offense, 4.1 on defense
Michigan State: 5.6 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Interesting that the offenses are almost the same. Alabama doesn't focus on big plays. Well, after that five-turnover disaster they stopped trying high risk passes so often. Both offenses hope to march down the field on you. Both can be stopped from marching by good defenses. Obviously Alabama has the superior defense. Amazing performance this year on that side of the ball considering how many talented weapons they faced on opposing SEC teams.
2015 Turnover Differential
Michigan State: +16
This is where Michigan State has a chance to make it interesting. This offense may not sparkle, but it doesn't make fatal mistakes either. If Sparty plays clean...and maybe forces a turnover or two from the Tide...we will have an upset in the making. We should note that Alabama did improve in this stat after a sluggish start. Easy to do that if you just keep handing off to a stud running back all night. Michigan State must deny, or at least discourage that option.
2015 Market Performance
Alabama: 7-6 ATS
Michigan State: 5-7-1 ATS
Alabama is typically priced to perfection. They won a few cents anyway! More importantly, they really shone in "big" games after learning some lessons in September. Michigan State was slightly overrated this year. The bulk of that issue involved an offense that just couldn't score enough to clear big hurdles. That's less of a problem when you're a big dog.
Alabama: Jake Coker (222-338-8-2489 with 17 TDs)
Michigan State: Connor Cook (210-369-5-2921 with 24 TDs)
Not a lot was being asked of Jake Coker after that first month. He went back to being a game manager. Connor Cook has playmaking potential given that 24-5 TD/INT ratio. But, he also has a tendency to try to run to daylight when a first down is needed. He'd better not run himself into a collision and injury or the Spartans will have no chance to get on the board.
Current Line: Alabama by 10, total of 47
That's a projected final score of 28.5 to 18.5. Michigan State couldn't make it to 18.5 vs. Ohio State and Iowa. They may need a cheap TD or two to make it that high Thursday. Though, if this is going to be a smash mouth wrestling match in the trenches...Alabama may have some trouble getting past 28.5 themselves. Both teams will be running clock and playing the percentages. Sharps have already moved the total down two points with early betting action (from 49 to 47).
JIM HURLEY knows how important New Year's Eve is to making a big score this year. You have the two National Semifinals plus Houston/Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl...and that sets up the FIVE-GAME NEW YEAR'S BASH the next day. He understand that his clients expect BIG, JUICY WINNERS and he's ready to deliver!
You can purchase the final word for the Final Four and all of this week's great football action right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service through the NFL Super Bowl and college basketball's March Madness, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours.
We'll bounce back to the NFL once the Final Four is in the rearview mirror...and start gearing up for conference play in college hoops...
Weekend: NFL TV Preview...Minnesota at Green Bay on NBC
Monday: College Basketball Conference Report
Midweek and Weekend: NFL Wildcard Previews!
Monday January 11: College Football Championship Preview!
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