THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS:
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL SEMIFINALS
ORANGE BOWL: No. 1 CLEMSON (13-0) vs. No. 4 OKLAHOMA (11-1)
Details/TV: At Miami Gardens, Fla., Thursday at 1 p.m. ESPN
COTTON BOWL: No. 3 MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) vs. No. 2 ALABAMA (12-1)
Details/TV: At Arlington, Tex., Thursday at 5 p.m.; ESPN
Given that the Rose Bowl gets top New Year’s Day priority in the 2 p.m. TV kickoff window, those operating the College Football Playoff system were somewhat painted into a corner when it came to staging this season’s two national semifinal games. A logical choice seemed to be on Saturday, Jan. 2. But, no, they picked New Year’s Eve. The reason: Those running the NCAA don’t really care, writes Yahoo!Sports columnist Dan Wetzel.
“We’re establishing a new tradition,” playoff executive director Bill Hancock says. “We’re going to change the paradigm of New Year’s Eve.”
Replies Wetzel: “Except, no one is trying to establish a new tradition here. They are honoring two of the oldest traditions in America … self-indulgence and cronyism.”
Those of us coasting along in the West have fewer reason to get our diapers in a bunch. A double-header that will end at about 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 won’t put much of a crimp in our festive plans. Those in the East, however, might do well to embrace this idea. What else would you be watching, Bruno Mars on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” hosted by Ryan Seacrest?
We’re far more in the Norman Chad camp as far as this has played out. The Washington Post longtime columnist writes:”The apocalyptically consequential Oklahoma-Clemson and Michigan State-Alabama games on the last day of December is accidental genius … Shifting the college football semifinals to New Year’s Eve kills two birds with one stone: It allows Buffalo Wild Wings to charge triple for a dozen wings, to service those individuals who still insist on braving the streets. It gives the rest of us staying at home something to do.”
Now that we’ve got all those illogical logistics straighten out.
The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC champions are represented in this foursome, and all but Oklahoma had to win an extra conference championship game to prove their worth. Which is why some are keeping their eye on the Sooners’ chances of advancing past this round. (After all, didn’t Ohio State win it all last year from that No. 4 hole?)
Fourth is also where Sooners sophomore quarterback Baker Mayfield finished in the Heisman voting, after throwing for 3,389 yards (68.6 completions) and 35 touchdowns versus just five interceptions. His 9.6 yards per pass attempt was third in the nation, as was his 178.9 QB rating. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, also a sophomore, was third in the Heisman voting. He logged 3,512 yards passing, 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and 887 rushing yards for 11 TDs.
Does it factor in anywhere that Clemson pinned a 40-6 loss on Oklahoma in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl (which neither Watson nor Mayfield played in)? Maybe so.
In the other semifinal, Heisman winner Derrick Henry and his SEC record of 1,986 rushing yards are what Alabama figures will set the tone against a Michigan State team coached by Mark Dantonio, a former Nick Saban assistant. The defense of both teams will be put to the test, right up until last hours of 2015 tick off before the New Year’s celebration.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
The college football New Year’s Day game slate is highlighted by Stanford-Iowa in the Rose Bowl (Friday, 2 p.m., ESPN) and Notre Dame-Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl (Friday, 10 a.m., ESPN) … USC’s college football season ends against Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN) … UCLA and USC start the Pac-12 college basketball season in Washington (Friday/Sunday) while Long Beach State takes a trip to Duke (Wednesday) … More at this link …