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College Football Playoff Preview

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The wait is over.

The College Football Playoff starts today.

The first game, which starts at 3 PM EST will be the Washington Huskies vs the Alabama Crimson Tide. Then after that game concludes, the Ohio State Buckeyes will kick off against the Clemson Tigers at 7 PM EST.

The main question people seem to be asking is, can anyone topple Alabama? So far no team has been able to do so as Alabama is entering todays game against Washington with a 13-0 record. The Huskies are entering today's game as a 14 point underdog which seems about right. Playing against a team like Alabama will be something entirely new for Washington. Washington plays in the PAC 12 which is known for high scoring games with explosive offenses. The Huskies have been able to win so many games by winning shootouts, averaging 44.5 points per game.

However, Alabama’s defense is not only significantly better than any defense Washington has faced this season, but is significantly better than any other defense in the entirety of college football. The Crimson tide has allowed only 11.8 points per game, 63.4 rushing yards per game, and 184.5 passing yards per game.

What will help Washington is that its defense is also very good, allowing only 17.2 points per game. Alabama has a top offense, no doubt, averaging 40.5 points per game, but Washington’s defense is good enough to be able to keep the Huskies in the game.

The difference in this game will be the play of Washington quarterback Jake Browning. The Huskies offensive line will have major troubles protecting Browning and blocking to open up the run. Don’t expect Washington to be able to establish a run game today. Washington will lose if Bowning cannot evade pressure and make smart and accurate passes.

Prediction: Alabama 31 Washington 17

The prime-time Playoff game between Ohio State and Clemson should be a close and entertaining game. Vegas seems to think so as the Buckeyes are only a 2 point favorite tonight. These two teams are no strangers as they played each other in the Orange Bowl in 2013.

This game features two high power offenses. Ohio State has averaged 42.7 points per game, while Clemson has averaged 40.2 points per game. Defensively, both teams are also elite with Ohio State ranking third in the nation by only allowing 14.2 points per game. Clemson ranks 12th at allowing only 18.4 points per game.

Clemson’s defense is similar to Alabama in strengths. The defensive line for Clemson has been fantastic and have 46 sacks on the season. However, if any team is a good matchup to this type of defense it is Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett who is extremely well at scrambling out of trouble. Barrett’s ability to run will force Clemson to try and contain him which may make the Tigers blitzes less successful.

While Clemson’s total defensive stats this year have been extremely good, there are still questions about how good the defense really is. The Tigers’ defense dominated lower quality opponents this year, but when Clemson played against better teams the defense struggled. Clemson allowed 36 points against Louisville, 34 points against Florida State. 43 points against Pittsburgh, and 35 points against Virginia Tech.

On the other hand, there are also questions about how fresh Ohio State is given that it hasn’t played in over a month. Since the Buckeyes missed the Big Ten Championship, the last game they played was against Michigan on November 26th. Clemson has had a long wait as well but played against Virginia Tech on December 3rd.

Ultimately, it seems like this game will come down to which team has the better defense. The style of defense Clemson plays suits Barrett and Ohio State well. It game should be close, but Ohio State should be victorious. Don’t be surprised if Barrett runs for over 100 yards tonight.

Prediction: Ohio State 38 Clemson 31

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