The best College Football Playoff yet is upon us.
Not only do we have New Year's Day games (instead of the detestable New Year's Eve experiences from the last two years) in maybe the sport's two most beloved venues, we also get four teams that could each win it, something we've never been able to say before.
For the first time, the field doesn't include a team likely to get blown out in Round 1. You can easily make the case for any team in this group to beat any other team. (That makes predictions really hard for a change, since we don't have a gimme game almost guaranteed to make everybody half right. I still love you anyway, 2015 Michigan State.)
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
5 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN
Georgia favored by 2.5
- Baker Mayfield vs. Georgia's defense is the obvious marquee. Here are three questions the Dawgs had to answer while formulating their plan.
- Oklahoma's defensive numbers are horrific, though there's more to the story. Gonna need to be a LOT more to the story against Nick Chubb.
- No. 1 on the UGA fan's list of worries: how long a defense has to keep working just to shut down one OU play.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Oklahoma 31. The key to beating Georgia, according to Auburn: force throws on third down. Well, OU ranks near or in the bottom half of the country in all these run defense advanced stats, so how many throws can it possibly force? If Mayfield's striking quickly via explosive passes, which are the only real way to sting UGA's defense, then OU's defense should be on the field all game long.
Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN
Alabama favored by 3.5
- Alabama-Clemson Round 3 is actually distinct from the first two classics! Bama nemesis Deshaun Watson's replaced by Kelly Bryant, who's got a clearly different style.
- How should Bama OC Brian Daboll, who came straight from the NFL, choose to attack maybe the best defensive front in college football?
- Both these teams have key defenders shaking off injury. Combined with the two bullets above, and we should definitely expect a lower-scoring game than the first two editions.
Prediction: Clemson 21, Alabama 20. Clemson's had two weaker games all year, both about two months ago, after a Bryant injury. Bama's had three...in its last four games. Nobody's running in this game, so expect a lot of squashed scrums as we wait for decisive passes. Bama's one-dimensional passing game doesn't look like a great fit against this pass rush, while Clemson's dink-and-dunk lifestyle can put a few decent drives together.
- Most media members are picking a Clemson-Oklahoma final, while the impartial computer formulas spat out by unfeeling robots have SEC bias! The computers were the source of the dreaded scourge all along! Predictions roundup.
- But we can gaze further into the machines. Let's use Mascot Mode to predict the semis.
- Bama's the overall favorite, and as for most likely National Championship matchups, Las Vegas bookmakers also have the SEC bias! It's a dangerous sickness! I can't believe it!