The two college football semi-finals are on New Year's Eve and while Neil Monnery thinks Oklahoma blow out undefeated Clemson, the second game is far more interesting...
"Connor Cook is widely projected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft, I'm not sure as to his physical attributes but he has one of the smartest college football brains I've seen under center for a long time."
Oklahoma Sooners (4) v Clemson Tigers (1)
Start-time: Thursday 21:00
TV: Live on BT Sport/ESPN
The College Football Play-off was a huge TV hit last year in the US, but this year the two semi-finals will be played on New Year's Eve. Should be interesting. The first game sees the number one seed Clemson Tigers face up against arguably the hottest team coming into the tournament in Oklahoma.
One of the first things you'll notice is the spread on the Sportsbook is Oklahoma -4.5, the fourth seed are significant favourites. The reason is similar to last year, where Florida State were the undefeated champions of the ACC but they got blown out by Oregon. No-one thinks that the ACC is a tough conference compared to the SEC, BigTen, Big 12 and Pac-12.
Clemson though have a couple of very good wins on their resume, they beat Notre Dame and in the ACC title game they got over the line against North Carolina. Deshaun Watson was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, Wayne Gallman has rushed for well over 1,000 yards and in Artavis Scott, they have a receiver who can go up and get the ball.
For Oklahoma though, one bad defeat in the Red River rivalry game hasn't kept them out of the big dance. In Baker Mayfield, they have a QB who has a chip on his shoulder and plays like it. He is the first true walk-on freshman to ever start a game at the position at a Power-5 school.
He transferred to Oklahoma and is now regarded as one of the best in the game. His 35:5 TD/Int ratio is awfully impressive and in their last three games they've beaten Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor. If you beat those three teams back-to-back you deserve to make it.
I think Oklahoma -4.5 is generous, I see the Sooners blowing out the Tigers. The second game will be far more competitive. So stock up on the positive Oklahoma bets.
7/5 for them to win by more than 7.5pts is a good bet. Also you can get 11/10 for them to score over 35.5 points on the Sportsbook. That is a sensational price and a rare odds against no brainer.
Alabama Crimson Tide (2) v Michigan State Spartans (3)
Start-time: Friday 01:00
TV: Live on BT Sport/ESPN
The markets both in Vegas and here at Betfair HQ stun me. Are people not watching the games? Alabama are 10.5pt favourites for this one and I'll put it out there, run away from that as fast as you can. Michigan State are really good and they have the better win on their resume (at Ohio State) and their one loss was far less worrying than Nick Saban's lot.
Alabama RB Derrick Henry won the Heisman and I still don't get it. I watched him (and them) several times this season and I just don't see what everyone else is seeing. His stats are other worldy (1986 yards on 339 carries) but he hasn't passed the eye test. Jake Coker is not a very accurate QB, so for the Crimson Tide is good forward, they have to rely on their defense and this is where I get a lot more enthusiastic about this team.
They have seven defensive lineman who they rotate in and out who can legitimately play on Sunday's. They can dominate the trenches and have done all season long. They stuff the run game and pressure the QB. You can't not admire them.
So for Sparty to win, they need to grind it out. We know they can do this, the win I referenced earlier at Ohio State was with a backup QB against a team that hadn't lost a game since week 2 of the 2014 season (although they should've lost at Penn State in 2014 if the referees knew how to look at a clock but I digress). Going on the road and beating Ohio State is a statement win at the best of times but when you are without your QB? Wow. Just wow.
Connor Cook is widely projected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft, I'm not sure as to his physical attributes but he has one of the smartest college football brains I've seen under center for a long time. Here is the kicker though, that Alabama D-line is explosive but year in and year out, that Michigan State O-line gets it done.
I'm not sure who will win this game but I don't seeing it being a points fest. Not by a long chalk. So get on under 43.5pts on the extended spread at 5/4. This game will be dominated by the two defenses. If you are using the spread then go with Michigan State +10.5 at 17/20 but if you are looking for value, Sparty are 16/5 to win straight up and that is way too long. They are a far better team than that.
Back under 43.5 points on the extended spread at 5/4 on the Sportsbook
Back Michigan State +10.5 points at 17/20 on the Sportsbook
Back Michigan State straight up at 16/5 on the Sportsbook