The College Football Playoff is here. No. 1 Alabama will take on No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, while No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame start the evening by battling in the Cotton Bowl. In just the fifth playoff in the new postseason format to decide a national champion, but this year’s event is a historic one.
In the first four years of the CFP, we only had three undefeated teams reach the top four spots — Florida State in 2014, Clemson in 2015 and Alabama in 2016 — and those teams went a combined 2-3 in their respective games with both Clemson and Alabama reaching the title game before eventually losing it. This year, we have three undefeated teams in Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame.
That makes things a bit more challenging to predict based on previous results, though based on the point spreads for the semifinals, it seems that both Alabama and Clemson are the heavy favorites to meet in the title game for the third time in five years. But is that what our CBS Sports experts expect to happen? We were all asked to pick the winners for each College Football Playoff game — both straight up and against the spread — and most of us seem to believe we’re destined for the rematch of the rematch.
Check out all of our predictions below, and be sure to visit our Ultimate College Football Bowl Guide for expert picks and analysis for the rest of the bowl season.
Cotton Bowl semifinal
No. 2 Clemson (-12) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame — 4 p.m. on ESPN: Thinking that Notre Dame is in over its head with this playoff berth has become fashionable in the college football world, but the Irish have been one of the best all-around teams in the country all season long, and this spread is more a reflection of public perception than reality. Notre Dame’s offense struggled against Michigan, the only defense its played of this caliber, but that was with a different quarterback and without its best running back. Also, Notre Dame’s defense is good enough to keep Trevor Lawrence and company in check. I think Clemson wins, just not easily. Clemson 30, Notre Dame 23 — Tom Fornelli
Who will win Clemson vs. Notre Dame, and which side of the spread hits in nearly 60 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see the pick for the 2018 Cotton Bowl, all from the model that has returned over $4,000 in profit for $100 bettors!
Orange Bowl semifinal
No. 1 Alabama (-14) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma — 8 p.m. on ESPN: I’ve been a fan of the possibility of this matchup for some time. You simply don’t beat this Alabama juggernaut with defense; you have to score points — at least 30 to have a puncher’s chance. Who better to challenge, then, than the No. 1 offense? The Sooners can hold their own, but the question is for how long if the defense is a liability? Plus, the leg injury to receiver Marquise Brown will be a factor, though he is expected to play. Alabama was uncharacteristically pushed around in the trenches in the SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia, and I expect the Tide to rectify that. Plus, with Tua Tagovailoa healthy again, Alabama should be firing on all cylinders. Still, two touchdowns is a lot. Alabama 48, Oklahoma 40 — Ben Kercheval
Who wins Alabama vs. Oklahoma, and which side of the spread hits in 60 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see the pick for the 2018 Orange Bowl, all from the model that has returned over $4,000 in profit for $100 bettors!