In one week, the first-ever College Football Playoff will commence. Four deserving teams will take the stage on New Year's Day, but only two will emerge with a chance at a national championship.
The first game pits Oregon and Florida State against one another in the Rose Bowl. Both teams come in with Heisman-winning quarterbacks, but it's Oregon that gets the advantage of staying on the West Coast.
Down in New Orleans, the Sugar Bowl pits Alabama and Ohio State against one another. Nick Saban will look for his third win against Urban Meyer, who has lead the Buckeyes to the playoff despite heavy adversity this season.
Just seven days away from the two semifinal games taking place, here's a look at the full schedule and predictions for the two showdowns.
|College Football Playoff Schedule|
|Sugar||Jan. 1||No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State||ESPN||Alabama|
|Rose||Jan. 1||No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State||ESPN||Oregon|
|National Championship||Jan. 12||TBD vs. TBD||ESPN||TBD|
|R. Cory Smith's Predictions|
First on tap for the long-awaited semifinals will be the Rose Bowl. Despite the insane wealth of talent between the two programs, much of the focus will be on the two quarterbacks—and rightfully so.
Marcus Mariota has done everything possible to lead the Ducks to the playoff and won the Heisman Trophy along the way. Jameis Winston has the Seminoles in contention for the national title for a second straight season and riding high on a 29-game winning streak.
However, the two signal-callers have followed slightly different statistical paths this year. SportsCenter notes the numbers for the last two Heisman winners:
Along with the two quarterbacks leading the show, their backfield partners will have a huge role. Royce Freeman and Dalvin Cook have carved out huge yards all season with the Ducks and Seminoles, respectively. Expect both freshmen to have an impact, with Mariota and Freeman having the upper hand.
Over in the Superdome, Alabama will look to prove why it's ranked No. 1 against Ohio State. Led by Blake Sims and Amari Cooper, the Crimson Tide have an offense that can lead them to a fourth title in the last six years.
Despite adversity to start the year, Sims has been a weapon for Alabama. Saban spoke about his quarterback's character under center, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com:
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are looking to win a national title with their third quarterback this season. Cardale Jones is leading the offense, and Ezekiel Elliott and Devin Smith are making plays around him.
The trio worked well together in a blowout win against Wisconsin but will have a tougher test against a defense that ranked fourth in the nation. Barrett Sallee voiced his thoughts on the matchup, per Bleacher Report Radio:
By the end of the two semifinals, it will be Oregon and Alabama facing off for the national championship. Both teams have proved they are worthy throughout the season and will ultimately overpower their opponents.
After years of waiting, all college football fans want to see is a great show between four teams that have earned the right to be in the playoff. What happens from there should be debated after getting the full body of work from the two bowl games.
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