Network Notebook: The College Football Final Four
HOW COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S FINAL FOUR QUALIFIED FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKETS
Championship Weekend is in the books. Now we know that top seeded Clemson will face #4 seed Alabama in the Orange Bowl, and #2 seed Oklahoma will take on #3 seed Georgia in the Rose Bowl on January 1.
Let's take a quick look at how the survivors reached the brackets, then discuss early betting news.
#1 Clemson routed Miami 38-3 in the ACC Championship game. But, if you're planning out your betting strategy for their next game...be aware that the offense was far from explosive. This was a "defensive" blowout helped by cheap points set up by three Miami turnovers. Clemson only gained 331 yards, and only managed 4.4 yards-per-play. Three of Clemson's TD's came on drives of less than 45 yards. This Clemson defense is definitely National Championship. Can they score on their own against Alabama in the Orange Bowl?
#2 Oklahoma was a big 41-17 winner over TCU in the Big 12 Championship. Defense helped here as well, as OU's first TD came on a fumble return. But, the Sooners averaged 7.0 yards-per-play while winning total yardage 461-317. Likely Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield leads a National Championship caliber offense. Will the defense be able to stop Georgia's potent rushing attack?
#3 Georgia avenged its earlier loss to Auburn, pulling away late to a 28-7 victory in the SEC Championship. You could see Auburn's defense run out of gas in the fourth quarter, understandable after a physically draining stretch of football the past month. Georgia would win yardage 421-259 while gaining 6.6 yards-per-play thanks to some breakaway runs. The Bulldogs were just 2 of 11 on third downs though, helping to explain why the rematch with Auburn was so low scoring and close much of the way.
#4 Alabama was off, and needed Wisconsin to stay close with Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship to earn the final berth. The Buckeyes would only win that 27-21, having to sweat the ending because of three turnovers. Maybe a 27-14 win puts the Buckeyes in the Final Four, which would have been the score if not for a Wisconsin pick-six off an ill-advised J.T. Barrett pass. Or, if the selection committee weighed boxscore stats as a tie-breaker, Ohio State might have made it thanks to a 449-298 edge in yardage, and a 6.6 to 4.1 advantage in yards-per-play. Basically, Ohio State beat Wisconsin as badly as Georgia beat Auburn! But the scoreboards weren't the same because of the turnover loss and the giveaway TD.
We have plenty of time between now and New Year's to handicap the Final Four. No need to go in-depth here, particularly with possibilities for injuries or other distractions getting in the way. These coaches should be smart enough to keep players from being suspended. For now, the basics.
*Alabama opened a slight favorite over Clemson despite being the inferior seed. Day One betting in Las Vegas and offshore was very heavy because both teams have sharp and public constituents. This is the third meeting in three years between the two most potent college football dynasties. It's been a split, with each winning a championship trophy. The key will likely whether or not Clemson's inconsistent offense can get points on the board vs. Alabama. The Tigers are more battle-tested, and are well-versed on how Alabama likes to do things. Frankly, Clemson would be the favorite if they had a more dynamic quarterback. Heck, Clemson might end up being the favorite anyway because they are getting some early betting support.
*Oklahoma opened a slight favorite over Georgia, but sharps who respect defense came in early on the Bulldogs. Some SEC fans were betting both Alabama and Georgia out of the gate. Analysts who believe that conference is overrated this season were fading both. Definitely more "blow up" potential here. Georgia can't play from behind...which would help OU pull away with a lead. Georgia is great at sitting on leads and cashing in field position, which could pressure Mayfield into second half mistakes. Will Georgia's lower risk attack eventually make them a small market favorite? Something to keep an eye on.
With apologies to Ohio State Fans, THIS IS A GREAT FINAL FOUR! No pretenders. No two-loss teams. Three conference champions and a "Wildcard" that was Power-Rated number one in the country all season by betting markets, whose only loss was on the road against another national power. Ultimately, the championship game matching the survivors is going to be close to pick-em unless somebody catches fire in the semifinals in a way that changes perceptions.
And, JIM HURLEY is very excited about attacking the rest of the bowl state too. Several "decent" teams are matched up in showdowns that would have made for great prime-time showcases during the regular season. We're just two weeks away from the full postseason getting underway. This is shaping up as one of the most exciting bowl campaigns in YEARS.
Build your bankrolls all through the month of December so you can really unload during the marquee bowls and NFL Playoffs. You can purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours. Be sure you ask about combination packages that offer the most bang for your buck.
Congratulations to the Final Four championship contenders. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
The NOTEBOOK will be back at the end of the week for a big-game NFL preview.
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