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Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers want to make history repeat itself against the Oklahoma Sooners — albeit on a grander stage — in their College Football Playoff semifinal on Thursday in the Orange Bowl.
The undefeated Tigers enter the Orange Bowl listed as 3.5-point underdogs against the Sooners at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The underdog has won SU and ATS in six of the last eight Orange Bowl games at SunLife Stadium in Miami.
Clemson beat Oklahoma 40-6 last season in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Tigers are 7-0 SU after winning the previous game in a matchup, but coach Mike Stoops’ Sooners are 15-1 SU in their last 16 outings after losing the previous matchup.
Clemson, which is 13-0 SU and 6-7 ATS, has dual-threat QB Watson as its headliner but its defense is also a strong suit. The Tigers played a strong schedule that included Florida State, North Carolina and Notre Dame, yet allow an average of fewer than 300 yards. Mackensie Alexander is an elite cover corner, while DE Shaq Lawson’s blitzing is also a main cog in Clemson’s top-10 pass defense. The Tigers allow an average of only 20.2 points.
Coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, who are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four December games, are extremely efficient. Watson, who has passed for or scored 41 of Clemson’s 60 offensive TD, is complemented by 1,100-yard rusher Wayne Gallman and all-ACC sophomore WR Artavis Scott. Tight end Jordan Leggett could also be a matchup problem for Oklahoma, which typically sees three- and four-wideout attacks in the spread-dominated Big 12.
The Sooners, 11-1 SU and 9-3 ATS, will need to be able to both run and stop the run. The Samaje Perrine/Joe Mixon RB tandem, who have combined for 2,040 yards, are up against a Tigers defense that allows only 3.7 yards per rush. Junior QB Baker Mayfield has been money over the last five games with a 17-to-1 TD/interception ratio. Senior WR Sterling Shephard is a X factor, as a receiver and returner.
Key defenders such as DE Charles Tapper, DE/OLB Erik Striker and MLB Dominque Alexander regularly blow up running plays and maroon opponents in long-yardage situations. However, Watson poses a formidable challenge, especially with the Tigers’ multiple looks and threats.
The total for Thursday’s Oklahoma vs. Clemson betting matchup is set at 64.5 points at the sportsbooks. The total has gone OVER in six of Oklahoma’s last seven games. The total has gone UNDER in eight of Clemson’s last 11 bowl games.