Who will win the College Football Playoff? Breaking down the semifinals

Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates a touchdown
Photo of Andrew Ortenberg

Andrew Ortenberg

NCAAF· 1 year ago

Show Bio

I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

The college football season is winding down, and while that’s got all of us a little sad, it also means the best games of all are about to come. The College Football Playoff is right around the corner, with the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl taking place in just a few days. We’ll have a ton of stuff leading up to the big games, and of course you can get our free picks on the side and total of every bowl game under our ‘NCAAF Picks‘ tab.

But right now we’ll be talking about just the final four teams. If you had said at the beginning of the season we would end up with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, I don’t think anybody would’ve been too surprised. We ended up with the teams that have reigned supreme over the college football landscape the past few years, and that’s nothing to complain about. Let’s dive in:

College Football Playoff semifinal – Rose Bowl

This year’s Rose Bowl will feature #1 vs. #4 as the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Alabama has been the consensus top team in the nation all season long, and it’s hard to make a case for anyone else. That being said, they haven’t looked entirely unbeatable either. They showed signs of vulnerability early in the season against Ole Miss, when the Rebels gave them a scare and dropped 48 on them.

They also came very close to losing to Florida in the SEC Championship Game in their most recent contest, and the defense again was lackluster as they gave up 46. Notre Dame had a perfect regular season before falling to Clemson in the ACC title game. They beat Clemson earlier in the year, and everyone seems to have discounted it because Trevor Lawrence wasn’t playing, when I’m not sure that’s entirely fair.

Lawrence’s backup actually played really well in that game, and Notre Dame deserves credit for how they played. The rematch was lopsided but I think that game just snowballed, and a third meeting would be much closer. The Fighting Irish are going to play with pride here after how their last trip to the College Football Playoff ended, and they’ll keep this one closer than people think. Alabama will end up winning, but we think Notre Dame does enough to cover this hefty spread of 20 points.

College Football Playoff semifinal – Sugar Bowl

That of course leaves us with yet another meeting between Clemson and Ohio State. These teams met in the semifinal last year, and Clemson won 29-23. Everybody knows Lawrence is the best player in the country, and it’s going to be difficult for the Buckeyes to slow him down. Because of the Big Ten’s abbreviated campaign, Ohio State enters this one only having played six games. It was also a down year for the conference overall, so they haven’t really played anybody too tough.

They had a couple of games be closer than they should’ve been against inferior teams, like when they struggled to put away Indiana and Northwestern. Justin Fields has been inconsistent at times, and this is going to be a huge step up in competition from the schedule they just faced.

Clemson is more battle tested, having just pummeled Notre Dame in their finale, and the offense has reached true juggernaut status. It feels destined that we’re going to see another Alabama/Clemson rematch, and the Buckeyes just didn’t show anything during their conference play that has me believing they can hang here. We’re laying the points with Clemson. 

National title game

That would lead us with Clemson and Alabama doing battle once again. Assuming that happens, it should be another thrilling and high-scoring national title game. These teams are quite a bit different than when they last met, and Mac Jones is a much different quarterback than Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa. What Jones has done this season is undeniably impressive, but I’m taking Lawrence over him every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

As I mentioned above, I have some genuine concerns about this Alabama defense. They weren’t tested by too many elite offenses, but when they were, they didn’t show well. They arguably should’ve lost to Florida had the Gators not kept shooting themselves in the foot. Clemson is loaded with big game experience, and we’ve never seen how Jones will handle a stage this big.

The Tigers allowed 17 points or fewer in seven of their 11 games, and Jones hasn’t faced a defense with this much pro-level talent yet. Lawrence is as seasoned as they come, and what better way for him to ride off into the sunset and the NFL draft than by delivering a second championship to Clemson.  Call me crazy, but I’d give a slight edge to Clemson here. That being said, this one is really too close to call.

Want the best college football picks all season long? Check out our ‘NCAAF picks‘ tab for breakdowns and picks on every big game of the 2020 season. 

See All
FanDuel Sportsbook

$150

Bet $5, Win $150 CASH on Any NFL Team to Win Their Playoff Matchup!

Sign up for a new account with FanDuel Sportsbook

Bet $5 on any NFL team to win their next playoff game

If your team wins, YOU WIN $150 - in CASH!

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.

DraftKings

$280

Bet $5, Win $280 on Any NFL team to Win Their Next Playoff Game!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account

Bet $5+ any NFL playoff game Money Line

Win $280 in credits if your team wins the game

Must be 21+ located in AZ, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WY or WV to play. Offer valid only for new customers. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

PointsBet

$200

Bet $20, Get $200 - Regardless of Outcome!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit $20+.

Bet $20 on any game in any sport!

Win $200 - no matter whether your initial bet won or lost!

BetMGM

$200

Win $200 If ANY NBA Team Makes a 3-Pointer!

Sign up for a new account with BetMGM, and make a deposit of $10+.

Place a $10 moneyline bet on any upcoming NBA game.

Win $200 if either team in your selected game makes a 3-pointer

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at BetMGM Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Win $200 If A Goal Is Scored In ANY NHL Game!

Sign up for a new account with BetMGM, and make a deposit of $10+.

Place a $10 moneyline bet on any upcoming NHL game.

Win $200 if either team in your selected game scores a goal

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at BetMGM Sportsbook.

Caesars Sportsbook

$1,001

Get a $1,001 Free Bet + A FREE NBA JERSEY!

Register for a new Caesars Sportsbook account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,001

Receive a free bet matching your initial stake up to $1,001 + a FREE NBA JERSEY!

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

Unibet

$500

Get a $500 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $500 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $500

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$400

Get a $400 Risk-Free Bet on the Breeders' Cup!

Register for a new Twinspires account using offer code PICKS400

Place a bet on the Breeders' Cup

Receive a refund if your first bet loses up to $400

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

Yahoo DFS

$25

Get $25 in Site Credit With Yahoo DFS When You Deposit $5!

Register for a new account with Yahoo DFS and deposit $5+

Enter a $5 DFS contest

Upon entry, you will receive a bonus $25 in credit into your account!

21+ and new players only. Full terms available from Yahoo DFS.