Last month the college football playoff committee chose #1 Clemson, #2 Alabama, #3 Michigan State, and #4 Oklahoma as the four best teams to play in the 2nd annual College Football Playoffs on New Years Eve. There wasn’t much drama as these teams were predicted to be in the semifinals. The debate was which of these teams are the best from this group. Oklahoma was the hot pick to win it all based on how strong they finished the regular season. Michigan State was also considered a dark horse being that they excelled in being the underdog. When the smoke cleared from semifinal games both #1 Clemson and #2 Alabama dominated their opponents showing that the playoff committee got the #1 and #2 teams right. Let’s look at both games.
2015 Orange Bowl
This game had #4 Oklahoma Sooners vs #1 Clemson Tigers. It was billed as a clash between two great quarterbacks with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson going against the Sooners Baker Mayfield. Both are dual threat quarterbacks running spread offenses. Mayfield is an improviser and uses his feet when the play breaks down. Watson is more of a passer and will run when the play is called to do so. Both teams played each other in last years 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl (Tigers routed the Sooners 40-6). Clemson came into this matchup as the underdog. Oklahoma was very confident that they were the better team. They showed that early as they took the opening kickoff and drove down the field to score going up 7-0. The Sooners had a halftime lead 17-16. That would be all the scoring that Oklahoma would have as Deshaun Watson took over. Watson threw for 187 yards and ran for another 145 totaling three touchdowns. The Tigers defense came up big by picking off Mayfield twice. Clemson won the battle in the trenches and that was the key to the game winning 37-17.
2015 Cotton Bowl
This was the second semifinal game of the day with #4 Michigan State Spartans vs #2 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide came into the game as a 10 point favorite along with a stout defense and Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry. Their preparation was very business like as they were the only repeat participate in the college football playoffs (losing in last years semifinals to Ohio State). The Spartans embraced the underdog role as it’s “us against the world.” They also had quarterback Conner Cook who is a potential 1st round NFL pick. The game plan was to stop Derrick Henry and have Alabama QB Jake Coker beat them. They did slow down Henry rushing for 75 yards on 20 carries but Coker was another story. Michigan State stacked the box for the run and Coker torched the Spartan defense completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. The Alabama defense also didn’t disappoint with their front 7 or 14 (that’s how many play makers they have on the defensive line). This group held Michigan State scoreless, had two interceptions and four sacks. The Alabama special teams also came up big when Cyrus Jones returned a punt 57 yards for touchdown. The Tide routed Michigan State 38-0.
Alabama will meet Clemson in Glendale, AZ on January 11 for the National Championship.