The College Football Playoff kicks off with LSU vs. Oklahoma at 4 pm ET on Saturday, followed up with Ohio State vs. Clemson in the late game at 8. This is likely the best slate of football we will get all year, with two solid games around noon and then the playoff games headlining the rest of the day.
LSU Tigers vs. Oklahoma Sooners
The Tigers come into the game with a huge question mark at the running back position with Clyde Edwards-Helaire questionable with a hamstring injury. If I had to guess right now, I suspect he does not play in the game, but I don’t have a great read on the situation right now.
Overall, this injury is not a huge deal to me, but there are concerns about the usage with the other backs. I think that LSU’s depth at running back is among the best in the country, and there were plenty of people that expected one of the younger guys to win the job over Edwards-Helaire at some point this year.
I think that the backups have enough talent to jump into his role, but I am unsure that LSU will be comfortable using the young players in the variety of roles that they currently do.
I expect the Tigers’ play to stay around the same level, but it is possible that we see less running back usage in this game if Edwards-Helaire is out.
The Sooners also will be missing key players with a starting safety out due to injury and three players out due to suspension. I expect the Sooners to look relatively similar on both sides of the ball, but missing a starting safety and defensive lineman could result in even more offense from the Tigers.
The Sooners are 13-point underdogs in this game, and that number is just way too big. I have been betting against Oklahoma all season long, but this number is just way too high for the game environment that I expect.
LSU has played in three one-possession games this year, and Oklahoma is not worse than teams like Auburn and Texas. LSU is a great story, but it is not like the Tigers have just been dominating elite teams all season long. I love the Sooners in this matchup and think that they should be able to keep it close for most of the game.
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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers
This game is very clean from a health standpoint outside of Justin Fields, and I expect him to look healthy in this game. He will not be 100 percent, but Fields will be more than healthy enough once the adrenaline is pumping.
This is my favorite game of the year, and I have taken more time watching these two teams than any others all season long. I have a lot more questions for Clemson than I do the Buckeyes, and I think that these issues may come to fruition on Saturday night.
Clemson’s safeties and linebackers outside of Isaiah Simmons are not great football players or athletes, and I think that this may be exposed on Saturday night. All season we have watched Clemson feast on bad opponents, and I expect Ohio State’s raw athleticism to show up in a big way.
Since Clemson has been a college football power for several years, everyone assumes that it has recruited at the same level as teams like Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia, but it just has not. Clemson has recruited elite top-end talent like Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins, and Trevor Lawrence, but it doesn’t have the same depth that these other programs have.
This year with a young defensive line, I expect Clemson to look a lot different than it has in recent years if the Buckeyes go with a lot of spread concepts to eliminate blitz opportunities. From a talent perspective, these teams are not anywhere near as close as the numbers would suggest, so I have to take the Buckeyes at +2.