College Football Playoff Championship 2018: Odds and Predictions for Matchups

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01:  Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's going to take a big upset for the 2018 College Football Playoff to not result in an Alabama-Clemson National Championship Game for the third time in four years. 

At least that's what the oddsmakers are saying. 

Both Alabama and Clemson will enter their respective matchups as double-digit favorites, according to OddsShark

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the only newcomers to the tournament field this season. They will look to win a battle of undefeateds against the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl. The Tide will look to play in their fourth straight title game with a win over Oklahoma and their high-powered offense in the Orange Bowl.

Here's a look at the schedule for both games along with the lines and a prediction for each matchup. 


College Football Playoff Schedule

Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Clemson (-10.5) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame, Dec. 29 at 4 p.m. ET

Orange Bowl: No. 1 Alabama (-14) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. ET


College Football Playoff Predictions

Cotton Bowl

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 03:  Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass during the second half of a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on November 3, 2018 in Evanston, Illinois.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Notre Dame's lack of a conference championship game (or a conference at all for that matter) has a lot of people upset that it is in the field. It might not have that extra data point on its resume, but it did what it needed to do to get in this game. 

The Irish have ridden a stingy defense and a well-rounded offense to an undefeated record. Brian Kelly's bunch are fourth in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders' S&P metric. 

Quarterback Ian Book has been a difference-maker on offense. He's eighth in the nation in passer rating and has been the steadying force for the team since replacing Brandon Wimbush as the primary quarterback for Notre Dame. 

Where this matchup is going to get scary for Notre Dame is in the trenches. The Irish offensive line is 104th in Football Outsiders' line yards—a stat that attempts to capture the offensive line's impact on the run game. 

Their highest ranking on the site is 33rd in adjusted sack rate, which isn't really a great number to hear either when going against Clemson's front

The Tigers are the nation's top rushing defense at just 2.4 yards allowed per attempt and are second in the nation in sacks at 45. 

Those numbers don't add up to a fun time for Book and the Notre Dame offense. 

Throw in a Clemson offense that is third in yards per play and averaging 45 points per game and this could be a recipe for yet another semifinal game that isn't close. 

Prediction: Clemson 38, Notre Dame 14


Orange Bowl

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Trey Sermon #4 of the Oklahoma Sooners breaks free during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 3, 2018 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma defeated Texas Tech 51-46. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Im
John Weast/Getty Images

Say what you will about the committee's decision to put Oklahoma in at No. 4, the Sooners offense going against the Alabama defense is the most interesting matchup that could be made. 

Lincoln Riley has the Sooners offense humming. As Tony Barnhart of the SEC Network noted, there's a strong case to be made the Kyler Murray led team is better offensively than the Baker Mayfield led squad that put up 48 on SEC champion Georgia last season:

Tony Barnhart @MrCFB

Georgia vs. Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl last season was one of the best games I've ever seen. Now Alabama gets their shot at the Sooners. Hint: This OU offense, with Kyler Murray, is better than last season's with Baker Mayfield. It is going to be fun!!!

The game puts the nation's best offense in Oklahoma against one of the best defenses. The Sooners lead the nation in yards per play by nearly a yard and also lead the country in points per game. 

They aren't all about chucking it around, either. The Sooners are one of the top five teams in the country when it comes to yards per rush and will bring a balanced attack to the Tide defense. 

The bad news for the Sooners is that Alabama is clearly the second most prolific offense in the nation and has the quarterback to go toe-to-toe with Murray in Tua Tagovailoa.

Barrett Sallee @BarrettSallee

Oklahoma just sent a press release specifically comparing Kyler Murray to Tua Tagovailoa https://t.co/c6JZ8a43U4

There's no easy way to put it: Oklahoma's defense is not good. The Sooners give up 32.4 points per game (96th in the country) and are particularly bad in the secondary, ranking 106th in the country in opponent quarterback rating. 

If Oklahoma can find a way to scheme against an Alabama defense that has surrendered just 14.8 points per game, it's going to at least be exciting. 

However, if the offense even relies a little bit on the defense, this could get ugly for the Big 12 champs. 

Given what Riley and Co. were able to do last season against the Bulldogs' stingy defense, let's hope for entertainment's sake they show up so their defense only lets them down in the end and not all night. 

Prediction: Alabama 45, Oklahoma 41