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The media’s predicting a Clemson-Oklahoma National Championship, but the computers disagree

Rounding up picks and predictions on the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl from a bunch of media outlets and advanced-stats systems.

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The 102nd Rose Bowl Game - Iowa v Stanford Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The College Football Playoff kicks off on New Year's Day at 5 p.m. ET between No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal. After that, we get the Sugar Bowl semi with No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Alabama. The winners meet Jan. 8 in Atlanta for the CFP National Championship.

As far as picks go, first, we’ll start with the national media.

Based on collective picks posted by SB Nation, Bleacher Report, 247Sports, Sports Illustrated, and USA Today, Clemson and Oklahoma are the favorites. This table shows how many panelists at each outlet picked each team:

Media CFP picks

Outlet Rose Bowl Sugar Bowl
Outlet Rose Bowl Sugar Bowl
SB Nation 6/10 Oklahoma, 4/10 Georgia 7/10 Clemson, 3/10 Alabama
247Sports 2/2 Oklahoma 1/2 Clemson, 1/2 Alabama
Bleacher Report Oklahoma Alabama
Sports Illustrated 4/7 Oklahoma, 3/7 Georgia 5/7 Clemson, 2/7 Alabama
USA Today 5/6 Oklahoma, 1/6 Georgia 5/6 Clemson, 1/6 Alabama
Total 18/26 OU, 8/26 Georgia 18/25 Clemson, 7/25 Alabama

But when it comes to advanced-stats systems, Georgia and Alabama are favored.

Let’s take a look at ESPN's FPI, SB Nation's S&P+, the Sagarin Predictor, SRS, and the current Vegas lines. If you go by just the numbers, the two SEC teams are the slight favorites.

CFP computer picks

System Rose Bowl Sugar Bowl
System Rose Bowl Sugar Bowl
S&P Georgia by 2.2 Alabama by 3.6
FPI Georgia by 2.6 Alabama by 3.1
Sagarin Georgia by 4.11 Clemson by 0.48
SRS Oklahoma by 4.19 Alabama by 3.22
Vegas Georgia by -2.5 Alabama by -3

Obviously, the media is more in favor of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl matchup, which is likely good news for Nick Saban, who compared the media hyping his team up this season as “rat poison.”

The year before, Alabama had to manufacture bulletin board material, making up its own fake news to hang in meeting rooms, before blowing out Washington. Saban’s probably having an easier time convincing his players they’re actually underdogs this time around.

Last year, every computer predicted that Ohio State would beat Clemson, but Ohio State was shutout in a bowl for the first time since the 1920 Rose Bowl, so they don’t get everything right all the time!

Oklahoma actually opened as the betting favorite in the Rose, but the line swung to Georgia. We could end up with two closely matched semifinals for the first time ever, making this likely the best Playoff yet.

Unlike previous years, there’s really no clear favorite.

Among our 10 picks by humans, each team got multiple picks to win the national title. That sounds fun! Let’s just say we didn’t have multiple people picking Michigan State to win the 2015 Playoff, or Washington in 2016.

Clemson’s the committee’s No. 1 seed, but the computers like semifinal opponent Alabama to win it all ... barely.

A Playoff with no clear underdog or favorite? Sounds like it could be one of the best set of semifinals we’ve had yet!