College Playoff Primer

The College Football Playoff is set after Sunday’s announcement of the nation’s top four teams. Unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama will square off against No. 4 Oklahoma, the Big 12 champion, at the Orange Bowl in Miami in one semifinal matchup on Dec. 29.

The other game is also on Dec. 29 and will be at Jerry World in Arlington, where undefeated and second-ranked Clemson will take on unbeaten No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. The winners will collide in the finals on Jan. 7 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in Santa Clara at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

As of Sunday night, most betting shops had Alabama (13-0 straight up, 8-5 against the spread) installed as a 14-point favorite with a total of 79.5. The Sooners were +400 on the money line (risk $100 to win $400).

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had to leave the SEC Championship Game with a foot injury that’s expected to have him sidelined for at least two weeks. Without the sophomore QB, back-up and former starter Jalen Hurts rallied the Crimson Tide from a 28-14 deficit to win 35-28 over Georgia in an epic thriller.

Lincoln Riley’s squad avenged its only loss of the season – a 48-45 setback vs. Texas in the Red River Rivalry – by beating the Longhorns 39-27 in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game at Jerry World. The Sooners will be underdogs for the first time this season. They were ‘dogs three times last year in Riley’s first season since taking over for Bob Stoops, compiling a 2-1 record both SU and ATS. OU lost a 54-48 decision to Georgia as a 2.5-point ‘dog in last year’s CFP semifinals in Pasadena.

This is Oklahoma’s richest underdog spot since the 2013 Sugar Bowl, where OU thumped Alabama by a 45-31 count as a 15-point puppy. The Sooners have won outright in both of their most recent situations as double-digit ‘dogs, beating Oklahoma St. 33-24 in Stillwater as 10-point road ‘dogs in the 2013 regular-season finale.

These storied programs played a home-and-home series back in 2002 and 2003. OU won a 37-27 decision in Norman as a 12.5-point favorite. The Sooners went to Tuscaloosa the following season and won 20-13 at ‘Bama, but the Tide covered the number once again as a 7.5-point home underdog.

Clemson won the ACC title with a 42-10 win over Pittsburgh as a 27.5-point ‘chalk.’ As of Sunday night, most books had the Tigers listed as 11-point favorites against the Fighting Irish. The total was in the 55-56 range and Notre Dame was +325 to win outright (paid $325 on $100 wagers).

Dabo Swinney’s club is in the CFP for the fourth straight year. Like ‘Bama, Clemson has been a double-digit favorite in all 13 of its games, winning by at least 20 points 11 times. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly’s bunch is an underdog for only the second time this season. The Irish beat Michigan 24-17 in its opener as a 2.5-point home underdog. They haven’t been double-digit ‘dogs since the 2016 regular-season finale resulted in a non-cover when USC beat them 45-27 as 17.5-point home ‘chalk.’

Georgia finished No. 5 and Ohio State, the Big Ten champ, was sixth in the final CFP poll. The Bulldogs will meet Texas in the Sugar Bowl, while Ohio State will face Washington at the Rose Bowl. As of Sunday night, most spots had the Bulldogs favored by 10.5 points, while the Buckeyes were 4.5-point ‘chalk’ vs. UW.

Other New Year’s Six matchups include LSU (-7.5) vs. UCF at the Sugar Bowl and Michigan (-6) vs. Florida at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Michigan junior DE Rashan Gary announced Sunday that’s he’s turning pro and will not play in his team’s bowl game. Gary had 44 tackles, four tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and five QB hurries in nine games.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.