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College Football Championship 2019: Semifinals Odds and Playoff Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 28, 2019

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow looks for a receiver during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
Thomas Graning/Associated Press

For the second time in three seasons, the College Football Playoff lineup has swapped out two programs from the year before.

The top-seeded LSU Tigers are making their first appearance in the playoff format, while the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes are back for the first time since 2016.

The reigning champion No. 3 Clemson Tigers have the longest playoff streak at five, while the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners return for their third consecutive shot at a national championship.

Of the four, Clemson and Ohio State are the only ones with victories in the playoff format, which guarantees at least one new championship participant.

                  

College Football Playoff Schedule

Saturday, December 28

Peach Bowl: No. 1 LSU (-13.5) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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

Odds via Caesars.

             

Predictions

LSU (-13.5) vs. Oklahoma

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 07: Terrace Marshall Jr. #6 of the LSU Tigers scores a touchdown in the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by To
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

One of the many questions entering the Peach Bowl is how Oklahoma will contain LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.

The Heisman Trophy winner has seven consecutive 300-yard performances and has not thrown an interception since November 9. Even when he turned the ball over twice against the Alabama Crimson Tide, the senior recorded 489 passing yards and five scores.

The Sooners defense has not been stellar for a good chunk of the campaign, and it has allowed at least 23 points to four of its past five opponents.

The only team held under 20 points by the Big 12 champion in that span was the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who were without their starting quarterback.

Burrow's production may be affected by the status of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron believes the junior will participate Saturday, but he does not know in what type of capacity, per The Advocate's Brooks Kubena.

"Do I think he plays? Yeah," Orgeron said. "How much he plays, I don't know. We still got a ways to go there."

Edwards-Helaire is LSU's leading rusher and he has the third-most catches with 50. No other running back on the roster has come close to matching his impact. But the Tigers could get by with a backfield platoon and more targets to Thaddeus Moss and Terrace Marshall Jr.

LSU could still achieve success versus a short-handed Sooners defense that is missing suspended sack leader Ronnie Perkins and injured No. 2 tackler Delarrin Turner-Yell.

If Oklahoma fails to replace their production, it might not be able to stop Burrow, and the only achievement it may earn is covering the spread.

However, LSU's defense should have a say in that, as it allowed a combined 17 points in the past two games. If the secondary can slow down CeeDee Lamb through double coverage and contain Jalen Hurts' rushing threat, the game could be a landslide.

Since the five-point win over Alabama on Nov. 9, the Tigers have won four straight games by 20 points or more, and if their defense continues to play well, a cover could occur.

                     

Clemson (-2) vs. Ohio State

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Clemson and Ohio State both possess potential 2020 Heisman Trophy finalists at quarterback, running backs with at least 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns and a deep collection of receivers.

The Tigers and Buckeyes also rank in the top 10 in most defensive categories, and they each boast potential early first-round picks in the 2020 NFL draft.

The difference in the Fiesta Bowl could be something as small as avoiding sacks, which Dabo Swinney's side has done well all season.

Trevor Lawrence has been taken down 12 times over 13 games, and his offensive line should have a game plan laid out to stop Chase Young based on the defensive end's recent production. The Ohio State junior owns 16.5 sacks, but he has been kept away from the opposing quarterback in each of the past two games.

In the Big Ten Championship Game, Ryan Day's squad managed two sacks in its come-from-behind win, and it had the same total in the win over the Michigan Wolverines the week prior.

Clemson is coming off one of its better defensive outings, as it made three tackles for loss, forced a trio of quarterback hurries, two sacks and a pair of interceptions in the ACC Championship Game. If the Tigers contain Justin Fields in the same manner it limited the Virginia Cavaliers' Bryce Perkins, they may thrive at State Farm Stadium.

Perkins finished with 324 total yards, but Clemson silenced his threat by forcing three turnovers and coming up with eight third-down stops.

If the ACC champion replicates that and ends J.K. Dobbins' streak of three straight 150-yard games, it could land a return to the National Championship Game.

                        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.