While there are two College Football Playoff semifinals to look forward to, the one that will be the most heavily anticipated should be the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Oklahoma Sooners. The number one versus number four matchup sees the Heisman Trophy winner take on the Heisman runner-up, and the most dominant team in the sport against the most exciting player in the game.
Alabama is a 14-point favorite at BetOnline as they hope to slow down Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and the high-powered Sooners offense.
Oklahoma is the only team in college football to average over 550 yards per game on offense, with their 49.5 points per game also ranking at the top of college football. They play in the Big 12, which is like scoring in the NBA in that everyone does it, but Murray and the Oklahoma offense have been legitimately special all year long.
Kyler Murray leads a passing offense that ranks eighth in college football, averaging 324 yards per game passing. The fact that a baseball player is putting up these kinds of numbers is amazing, but Murray is clearly more athletic than your typical baseball player and can hurt Alabama with both his arm and legs.
The Sooners rank 11th in rushing, as they pound the ball for 253.9 yards per game, both traditionally with running backs like 1,000 yard rusher Kennedy Brooks or with the explosive Murray’s scrambling.
Oklahoma’s defense ranks 108th in college football, giving up 448 yards per game to opponents. They allow 32.4 points per game, which puts them in 96th place nationally. On one hand, they have to play some of the best offenses in college football in the Big 12, but on the other hand they almost lost to Army at home this season because they couldn’t get a stop.
Against the pass, Oklahoma gives up a 129th ranked 291.4 yards per game. Only the Houston Cougars, who gave up 70 points to Army in their bowl game, have been worse against the pass this year. Whether it’s Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts running the Alabama offense, they should be able to put it in the air without too much resistance.
It doesn’t say much, but Oklahoma’s run defense is its biggest strength, as the Sooners give up a 53rd ranked 156.7 yards per game. Alabama’s running game is a destructive force, and will require the best out of Oklahoma all game.
Alabama Crimson Tide Orange Bowl Analysis
Despite blowing out most of their opponents this season and taking it easy in the fourth quarter, Alabama averaged 528 yards per game for the season, making the Crimson Tide the fifth ranked offense in college football. They score 47.9 points per game, which ranks second behind only their opponent in this game.
Usually a running team, the Tide averaged 325.5 yards per game through the air, which ranks seventh in college football. Tua Tagovailoa has had a long time to get healthy for this game, and the flyin’ Hawaiian should be good to go. If he isn’t, Jalen Hurts has championship experience of his own to lean on.
On the ground, Nick Saban’s team averages 202.2 yards per game, putting Alabama in 34th nationally. Against the putrid Oklahoma defense, they could double that total.
Alabama’s defense is one of just 10 defenses to allow under 300 yards per game, with their 295 yards allowed per game ranking 10th in the country. Giving up just 14.8 points per game, the Tide are fourth in the country in scoring defense, and second behind Clemson among the four teams playing in the College Football Playoff.
Against the pass, the Tide give up a 13th ranked 178.4 yards per game. Against the run, Alabama gives up 117 yards per game, which ranks 19th in the FBS. Presumably, the Tide will give up much more than that in those games, but if they can slow down the Oklahoma offense they should cruise.
Alabama has had trouble taking on dynamic quarterbacks in the College Football Playoff before. Deshaun Watson was able to beat them in a national title game with his dual threat ability, and Kyler Murray is more than capable of the same. How the Tide react to Murray will tell the story of this game.
Oklahoma vs Alabama Trends
The Oklahoma Sooners are 12-1 straight up on the season and 5-7-1 against the spread. Oklahoma has been great against SEC competition in recent years, going 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against SEC opponents, with most of those games coming in the Sugar Bowl. But they have had trouble this year, going 1-3-1 against the spread in their last five games after straight up wins and 1-3-1 against the spread in their last five games against teams with winning records.
Alabama went 13-0 straight up this season to get to the playoff as the tournament’s top seed, going 8-5 against the spread despite being massive favorites in most of their games. The Tide have gone 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against teams with winning records. But since Nick Saban took the reigns at Alabama, he has failed to lead his team to a victory over the Heisman Trophy winner in the year they won the award, which could come into play against Kyler Murray.
Kyler Murray is one of the best players in recent college football history, and is a nightmare to defend. But when you give Nick Saban all of this time to prepare for an opponent, bad things happen to that opponent.
Alabama just needs a few stops to put Oklahoma behind the eight-ball, and they should be able to get them over the course of the game. Tua will look like the Heisman finalist he was this year rather than the injured player he was against Georgia, and the Tide will roll to yet another national title game.
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