Clemson (-12.5, O/U 56.5) vs. Notre Dame, 4:00 PM:
I’ve gone back and forth with this game. When I first saw the line I liked Notre Dame, but since then I’ve been crawling back to Clemson. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they just picked the wrong season to go 12-0 while there are 2 elite teams ahead of them. They just match up so poorly here. Notre Dame’s success depends on Dexter Williams and for that to happen they’ll have to beat a defensive line from Clemson that is so, so, so good. Yes, I know Dexter Lawrence is out for this game, but his backup Albert Huggens has quietly put up more sacks than Lawrence in 2018. Some other stats:
ND offense vs. Clemson defense
Line Yards (effect of the offensive line on the rushing game): 104th vs. 1st
Opportunity Rate (runs that gain at least 4 yards): 116th vs. 1st
Stuff Rate (carries that are stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage): 118th vs. 6th
Rushing S&P+ (opponent-adjusted overall efficiency ranking): 74th vs. 4th
Ian Book has had a good season, but I don’t see him being able to win this game for Notre Dame especially while his running game is being dominated.
On the other side of the ball, Trevor Lawrence will have his first true test all season in Notre Dame’s top 5 defense. The Irish specifically excel in stopping the pass. I expect to see Clemson running the ball a lot more than we have seen all season. I’ve seen a lot of people pointing out that Trevor Lawrence hasn’t faced anybody all season. To that question, I raise who has the Notre Dame secondary faced all season? That doesn’t take away from their success and it will certainly be an interesting matchup. Ultimately, I see Clemson just has too many weapons to be stopped by Notre Dame.
Clemson is the more talented team here. They are going to dominate on the defensive side of the ball and Trevor Lawrence will put enough points for a cover. RB Travis Etienne has a breakout game that puts him atop many 2019 Heisman ballots.
Pick: Clemson -12.5, Under 56.5
Alabama (-14, O/U 76.5) vs. Oklahoma, 8:00 PM:
I’m not confident in Tua’s ankle (he doesn’t sound so confident either):
I bet it will be 75% come gametime. If it lands or is hit the wrong way Alabama could have themselves a real issue.
The other big injury concern was Marquise Hollywood Brown and all indications are pointing towards him being ready to go. That is huge for Oklahoma who is going to need plenty of explosive plays to have a chance to win this game.
Do I think Alabama is in trouble? Not really, but what we saw in last years Rose Bowl could give us a preview of this game. Georgia’s defense is essentially Nick Saban’s defense 2.0. That’s what Kirby Smart set out to do and we saw him struggle containing Oklahoma’s offense last year. I think an argument could be made that this Oklahoma offense is better than last years. We’ve seen Nick Saban struggle with dual-threat QBs before (Trevor Knight, Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, etc.). Alabama’s defense only issues is defending against explosive plays (72nd in IsoPPP+), which is exactly where Oklahoma excels (1st in IsoPPP+).
Alabama is going to score on Oklahoma. I’d be shocked if they didn’t put up 30+. This is going to be a shootout. The only thing I will say about Oklahoma is they do have a tendency to make game-changing plays on defense when it matters. They had the safety against Texas:
and multiple big plays against West Virginia:
We’ve seen an improvement from the Sooners since Ruffin McNeil took over. The entire country has been doubting them since this game was announced. They won’t be the ’85 Bears, but they will be better than everyone is expecting.
I think Oklahoma puts a scare in Alabama here. If you were to build an offense to beat Nick Saban, this would be it. If you were to construct a QB to beat Nick Saban it’s Kyler Murray.
Pick: Oklahoma +14
Michigan (-6, O/U 50.5) vs. Florida, 12:00 PM:
Not a bad way to start the day. Michigan comes into this game off their disappointing loss to Ohio State, which feels like almost a year ago. The Wolverines got some good news with Shea Patterson announcing he is coming back for his senior year. I don’t know where he thought he was going, but he did the whole iPhone note thing on Twitter and said he couldn’t leave Michigan losing the way he did to Ohio State. Michigan will return Patterson, but will be without a few NFL players in this game: LB Devin Bush, DT Rashan Gary, RB Karan Higdon, and OT Juwann Bushell-Beatty.
Although it started rough, Florida turned out to have themselves a good season #1 under Dan Mullen. They’ll look to cap it off with a victory in the Peach Bowl. Florida hasn’t had a great offense since Urban Meyer left, but the 2018 unit does rank 27th in offensive S&P+. Michigan has had a top 5 defense for most of the season (outside of that one day in Columbus), but will struggle without Devin Bush and Rashan Gary. Chase Winovich is banged up as well. Dan Mullen served under Urban Meyer at Florida and what Meyer did to Don Brown’s defense the Saturday after Thanksgiving has given Mullen the perfect blueprint for Saturday.
Shea Patterson has led a decent Michigan offense, but without Karan Higdon, the Wolverines will struggle against a top-25 defense. Patterson didn’t see much time when he dropped back against Ohio State and Florida’s top-15 ranked pass rush will give him similar issues. Florida has the edge on the special teams as well.
Pick: Florida +6
Jack Mac’s Stay In The Black Picks:
2018: 87-75-4, +4.05 units
Notre Dame/Oklahoma Under 56.5
Arkansas State +1