Oklahoma (11-1) vs Clemson (13-0)
When: Thursday, December 31st 2015
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Time: 4:00 ET | TV: ESPN
In what could be the more competitive of the two National Semifinal games, the Oklahoma Sooners will go up against the Clemson Tigers in this year’s Orange Bowl from Miami. Clemson comes in as the only undefeated team in the country and has won 16 straight overall after winning the ACC Championship Game over North Carolina almost a month ago. Deshaun Watson, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy ballot, is a dynamic threat for any defense. He has passed for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 69.5% of his passes and has rushed for 887 yards and 11 more scores. Watson missed last year’s bowl game when Clemson beat up these Sooners 40-6 forcing five turnovers. Sophomore wide receiver Artavis Scott is a tremendous threat on the outside catching 84 balls (44 more than the next guy on the team) for 805 yards and five touchdowns this season. Tight end Jordan Leggett caught 7 touchdowns as part of his 34 catches, but has only scored once in the last six games. Sophomore running back Wayne Gallman has been a stud this year with 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns and is 14 yards shy of surpassing the school mark set by Raymond Priester in 1996. Clemson’s defense is ranked 7th in FBS in yards allowed and 5th against the pass. They allowed 20.2 points per game this season and are led by junior defensive end Shaq Lawson, who had a team-best 9.5 sacks and leads the nation with 22.5 tackles for losses. Junior defensive end Kevin Dodd had eight sacks, linebacker B.J. Goodson led the team with 91 tackles, and cornerback Condrea Tankersley picked off five passes.
The Sooners might not be undefeated, but they are sure one of the hottest teams in the country winning seven straight since a loss to Texas on October 10th. In those seven wins, they are averaging an amazing 52 points a game and beat Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State to finish the season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield might not be as fast as Watson, but he too has put up some big numbers. The junior, who finished third in the Heisman ballot passed for 3,389 yards and 35 touchdowns while rushing for 420 yards and seven TDs. Like Clemson, Oklahoma has a big threat receiver and talented running back. Sterling Shepard has 79 receptions for 1,201 yards and 11 touchdown catches and ranks second in school history in receptions (226) and receiving yardage (3,395). Sophomore running back Samaje Perine has rushed for 1,291 yards and 15 touchdowns and has 3,004 career rushing yards to join Adrian Peterson (2004-05) as the only players to top 3,000 in their first two seasons with the Sooners. The defense isn’t too bad either holding opponents to just 20.8 points per game led by senior outside linebacker Eric Striker, who has a team-high 16 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks. Cornerbacks Zack Sanchez and Jordan Thomas have a combined 11 interceptions. The Sooners are looking for their first national title since they went 13-0 in 2000.
This should be a classic. We know both teams posses great offenses, but their defenses are very underrated. Clemson’s defensive unit is a little better and the fact that they are underdogs as the number one team in the country should prove to be some motivation. I’ll take Clemson to win outright in a very close back-and-forth game.
Pick: Clemson +3.5