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Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Oklahoma Clemson Notre Dame playoff previews

The matchups for the College Football Playoff are finally set. Here’s an early preview of what to expect when Alabama faces Oklahoma and Notre Dame squares off against Clemson.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Dec. 29, 4 p.m. or 8 p.m. (ESPN & ESPN App)

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

Two of college football’s most storied programs. A dream quarterback matchup, pitting the two Heisman front-runners against each other. The nation’s top two offenses squaring off.

Oklahoma taking on Alabama figures to be one of the most compelling semifinal showdowns of the playoff era.

The defending national champion Crimson Tide will be the heavy favorites after winning every game during the regular season by at least 22 points before rallying past Georgia in the SEC championship game in dramatic fashion.

While the Crimson Tide have been dominant on both sides of the ball yet again, they’ve been a different monster offensively than past seasons because of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. In his first season as the full-time starter, Tagovailoa passed for 37 touchdowns with only four interceptions. And even though he struggled in the SEC championship before leaving with an injury, Tagovailoa could very well become Alabama’s third Heisman Trophy winner.

If Tagovailoa doesn’t win the award, the Sooners’ Kyler Murray will. And if there’s an offense that’s even more lethal than Alabama’s this season, it’s Oklahoma’s.

Quarterbacking an attack that is averaging almost 50 points per game, Murray has already broken Baker Mayfield’s school record for total offense. Following Mayfield, he could give the Sooners back-to-back Heisman winners, as well.

Yet as electric as the quarterbacks have been, defense is what distinguishes these two squads. And that’s where Alabama owns a massive advantage. The Crimson Tide rank No. 2 nationally in defensive efficiency; the Sooners are 91st.

That said, Oklahoma’s defense has come up with a few big plays of late. It’ll have to come up with a whole lot more if the Sooners stand any chance of pulling off the upset.

Key player for Alabama: Mack Wilson is going to have to play his best game to stop the potent Oklahoma offense. And we’re not just talking about what he’ll have to do when shadowing the fleet-footed Murray, who is almost impossible to contain. As the Mike linebacker and signal-caller of the defense, Wilson will have his hands full watching Murray and keeping the rest of the defense on task. Anything out of place, any check he leaves uncalled, could spell trouble against the Sooners.

Key player for Oklahoma: The Sooners are going to need Murray’s very best to topple Alabama. Because of his prolific ability to pass and run, Murray has the skill set to give Alabama problems. If he can put the Crimson Tide on their heels with big plays, Oklahoma could be in business.

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