Early College Football Playoff preview and best bets

Jalen Hurts throws a pass for Oklahoma.
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Ricky Dimon

NCAAF

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The bowl lineup is out; it’s time to get your picks in.

Office bowl pools will be the water-cooler talk over the next month, and how your College Football Playoff picks fare will likely go a long way in terms of your overall success. Regardless of how you pick them, the two semifinal showdowns and the final should be extremely fun to watch. Four storied programs will be featured and four big-name quarterbacks will be on display. In fact, the only QB who is not a Heisman Trophy finalist this season (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence) is a possible future No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Joining Lawrence in the festivities are Joe Burrow of LSU, Justin Fields of Ohio State, and Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma.

Peach Bowl: LSU (-13) vs. Oklahoma

Oklahoma went into championship weekend at No. 6 in the rankings, needing—at least on paper—two teams ahead of it to lose. Utah obliged on Friday night and Georgia did the same less than 24 hours later. Thus the Sooners are in despite losing to Kansas State during the regular season and getting pushed to overtime by Baylor in the Big 12 Championship. Hurts obviously has an unprecedented amount of experience and this is the best defense Oklahoma has sported in years. The Tigers completely dominated on both sides of the ball in the SEC Championship, but the Bulldogs were incredibly banged up. LSU’s defense probably isn’t good enough to win this one by two touchdowns.

Pick: Oklahoma +13

Fiesta Bowl: Clemson (-2) vs. Ohio State

The battle for No. 1 was big because neither LSU nor Ohio State wants to play Clemson. Now the task falls to the Buckeyes in what should be a competitive and extremely entertaining Fiesta Bowl. Be sure to check out free college football predictions for this game and every other bowl later this month. At the same time, Clemson should not want to play Ohio State. The Buckeyes ran through a schedule that included Michigan State, Wisconsin (twice), Penn State, and Michigan. They survived tough games against Penn State and Wisconsin (once). In just about any other season, Fields would win the Heisman Trophy. Clemson, meanwhile, has been tested only once and that was only because it turned in a dreadful performance against a North Carolina team that is 6-6.

Pick: Ohio State ML

National Championship

Pick: LSU (+125)

Just about everyone has known all along that LSU is the best team, but the committee purposely did not get it right until the very end simply to make headlines by creating controversy. As expected, the 13 committee members got it right with their final rankings, putting the Tigers ahead of Ohio State (and, of course, Clemson and Oklahoma). Head coach Ed Orgeron’s squad has looked borderline unbeatable since picking up signature wins over Auburn and Alabama midway through the 2019 campaign.

Best value: Oklahoma (+1200)

With every other playoff team at no worse than +250, there is a lot to like about getting the Sooners at +1200. They are led by a quarterback who has already participated in three different installments of the College Football Playoff (albeit sparingly in 2018-19), including six total playoff games. LSU, on the other hand, is making its first appearance. Despite the bloated Peach Bowl line, an Oklahoma victory would not be that big of an upset. And if Hurts and company manage to oust the Tigers, anything can happen against either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the title tilt.

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