The 2017 college football bowl season begins with FCS schools North Carolina A&T and Grambling squaring off in the December 16 Celebration Bowl and concludes at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with the national championship game on January 8.
And the oddsmakers apparently don’t care much about the rankings. Defending national champion and ACC winner Clemson is ranked No. 1 and faces No. 4 Alabama, which squeaked into the final College Football Playoff spot over Ohio State, in the New Year’s Day Sugar Bowl. Yet the Tide are set as 2-point betting favorites for the trilogy matchup between the two schools at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
It’s a guarantee that Alabama coach Nick Saban is glad he doesn’t have to game plan his defense for ex-Clemson star quarterback Deshaun Watson. He torched the Tide in the past two national title games, leading Clemson to a comeback win this past January and a close loss two seasons ago.
Many around college football believe that if Dabo Swinney ever leaves Clemson to coach somewhere else, it would be to replace a retiring Saban at Alabama, which is Swinney’s alma mater. This is the second year in a row a school that didn’t even win its division reached the playoff (Alabama). Ohio State did so last year.
The other semifinal features No. 3 Georgia, the SEC champion, and No. 2 Oklahoma, the Big 12 winner, in the Rose Bowl. The first-ever meeting between the Bulldogs and Sooners is listed as a pick’em. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is expected to be the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner when he takes the field in Pasadena, California. The Heisman Trophy presentation is this Saturday.
There used to be a bit of a Heisman curse regarding the winner’s team in a bowl game but that has largely been debunked of late. The school of the Heisman winner has won eight of its past 10 bowls (the 2014 and 2015 winners each played two bowl games as their teams won in the national semifinals).
Perhaps the two best bowl matchups outside of the semifinals are in the Cotton Bowl as No. 5 Ohio State takes on No. 8 USC, and in the Fiesta Bowl with No. 9 Penn State facing No. 11 Washington – both games are Big Ten vs. Pac-12, the two Power 5 conferences out of luck in terms of the playoff.
The Buckeyes are 7-point favorites in a terrific quarterback battle between OSU’s J.T. Barrett and USC’s Sam Darnold. It’s the final college game for Barrett and should be for Darnold, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft if he declares.
Meanwhile, Penn State is a 3-point favorite against Washington. That features the nation’s top running back in PSU’s Saquon Barkley against the No. 1 rush defense in the country. The Huskies allow only 92.3 rushing yards per game.
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