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College Football Playoff 2019-20: Odds, Schedule and Predictions for Semifinal

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 21, 2019

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) celebrates his touchdown against Georgia during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, in Atlanta. Ja'Marr Chase  was one of three players from LSU’s high-powered offense to earn unanimous first-team all-SEC honors when The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference football team was announced Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Clemson Tigers and LSU Tigers were tabbed as College Football Playoff favorites when the semifinal matchups were announced, and the lines have not moved much since. 

The top-seeded SEC champion is one of the largest favorites of bowl season for its Peach Bowl showdown with the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners. 

Recent suspensions to a few Oklahoma players may aid Ed Orgeron's side in its quest for another dominant victory over a ranked foe. 

Clemson is predicted to win by a small margin over the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes, and with plenty of elite talent on both rosters, the difference on the scoreboard could be minuscule. 

                        

College Football Playoff Schedule

Odds via Caesars; All Times ET

Saturday, December 28

Peach Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 LSU (-13) (4 p.m., ESPN) 

Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Clemson (-2.5) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (8 p.m., ESPN)

           

Predictions

LSU (-13) vs. Oklahoma

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

LSU's dominance against Top 25 sides was one of the main reasons it earned the No. 1 seed. 

The Tigers put up 37 points or more against four of their five ranked opponents, and they tore up Georgia's highly-touted defense for 481 total yards in the SEC Championship Game. 

Oklahoma's defense allows 60 more yards per game than the SEC East champion, and it concedes 24.5 points per contest. 

The Sooners could face more difficulties without suspended defensive end Ronnie Perkins, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Perkins is one of three Sooners reportedly suspended for the game, per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Chris Low. 

If LSU's offensive line can neutralize the threat posed by Jalen Redmond and Neville Gallimore on the interior, Joe Burrow could thrive with time in the pocket. 

The Heisman Trophy winner has been sacked on 28 occasions, but he has been taken down five times in the last three games. 

The Ohio State transfer has also not turned the ball over much, as he has six interceptions on 439 pass attempts. 

If the Sooners do not pressure him, Burrow could link up with 1,000-yard receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson for a large output. 

Chase, a sophomore, has six 100-yard performances since October 12, and Jefferson is coming off a 115-yard outing versus Georgia. 

Oklahoma's combination of Jalen Hurts and CeeDee Lamb can hurt LSU's secondary as well, but if the Tigers hone in on stopping the Sooners' top wideout, the Big 12 side may struggle to keep up with the SEC champion. 

After Lamb, only Charleston Rambo has over 500 receiving yards and five touchdowns, while LSU has a trio of players with double-digit receiving scores. 

With more explosive options at his disposal than Hurts, Burrow should be able to extend his 300-yard streak to eight while leading his side to a controlling victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

                         

Clemson (-2.5) vs. Ohio State 

Sean Rayford/Associated Press

The Fiesta Bowl is expected to be the closer playoff game because of the success both defenses have had. 

Clemson and Ohio State are first and second in total yards, passing yards and points allowed per game.

The programs also reside in the Top 10 of rushing defense, with the Buckeyes seventh and the Tigers ninth. 

Heisman finalist Chase Young and projected first-round pick Jeff Okudah headline the Ohio State defense, and Clemson's leading tackler Isaiah Simmons could also land in the Top 10 in the 2020 NFL draft.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had all three players going in the Top 8 in his latest mock draft. 

Young has to deal with a Clemson offensive line that allowed 13 sacks, Okudah is tasked with shutting down 1,000-yard receiver Tee Higgins, and Simmons will have to slow down J.K. Dobbins, who has 1,829 rushing yards

If Higgins is quieted, Trevor Lawrence can rely on Justyn Ross and others through the air and 1,500-yard rusher Travis Etienne to extend drives and find the end zone. 

If Dobbins is limited, Justin Fields could turn to the air to hook up with Chris Olave, K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor. 

The difference could come through turnovers. Lawrence has not been picked off since October 19, while Fields lost three fumbles in the last three contests. 

If the margins are slim and one or two plays determine the final result, taking the 2.5-point spread could be a nervy experience. 

                       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com