College Bowl season has come and gone, mainly the New Year’s Six, this includes the College Football Playoff Semifinals, which were played on New Year’s Day.
The fourth installment of the College Football Playoff began on Monday with the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California. This game pitted the No. 3 University of Georgia Bulldogs and the No. 2 University of Oklahoma Sooners in the first ever meeting between the schools. The Rose Bowl was an instant classic that went to overtime in the first time in the 104 year history of the “Granddaddy of them all.”
Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield led Oklahoma to a 31-17 halftime lead after throwing and catching a touchdown pass.
The Bulldogs would not go down without a fight and scored 21 unanswered points to open the second half before Mayfield and the Sooners took the lead at 45-38 with just over three minutes to play. Then Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm along with senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel stormed down the field and scored to tie the game on a direct snap to Chubb with just under a minute to go.
Oklahoma won the coin toss and Georgia started with the ball in the first overtime frame in Rose Bowl history (teams typically want to start college overtime on defense). The first overtime was offsetting field goals which brought the score to 48 points apiece.
The Sooners took the ball in the second overtime and their drive stalled, which brought on the field goal unit on fourth down. The Bulldogs, known for their blocked kicks in clutch situations, did so again and blocked the field goal attempt from the Sooners.
The Bulldogs won the game on the subsequent play when Sony Michel scored on a 25-yard run off a direct snap. The exact same play call that Chubb scored on to tie the game.
Georgia’s Head Coach Kirby Smart celebrated the win, but knew that his team’s work was nowhere near complete. The Bulldogs then awaited the winner of the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, was the sight for the rubber match against new rivals No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 1 Clemson Tigers.
Alabama won the first matchup in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship in a hard fought game from both sides.
“The Rematch” was played in the subsequent year, again in the National Championship. The 2017 version was another instant classic. Clemson senior quarterback Deshaun Watson was battered and bruised throughout the game. But in the closing seconds, Watson led a game winning drive that culminated with a two-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining to seal the win for the Tigers.
The rubber match of this budding rivalry was nothing like the others – sheer dominance on one side.
From the opening kick, Alabama took the reins and control of the game. The Tide’s dominant defense forced Clemson into punting situations throughout the game and stifled Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant and the Tiger offense could only manage three points in the first half.
The second half was a bigger rush of Crimson Tide as sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts picked apart the Clemson secondary. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban then called some trickeration and sophomore defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne scored the first receiving touchdown of his career on a one-yard pass from Hurts, after intercepting a Bryant pass and returning it into the red zone.
After a hectic New Years Day, the fourth College Football Playoff National Championship game will be played on Monday in the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The Bulldogs will be designated the home team as they have a higher ranking. The irony is that Athens, Georgia (where the Bulldogs play their home games in Sanford Stadium) is only 72 miles away from Atlanta.
This year’s title game shapes up to be interesting. This was a game that many expected to see the first weekend of December in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game. The makeup of the game would be almost exactly the same, except for the atmosphere and the uniform combinations (Georgia will wear their home uniforms and Alabama will wear their away set. The combinations would have been different if the teams met in December).
It is a matchup of a good, not great, Alabama defense and an efficient Georgia offense that can keep up with anyone. The real matchup will be the opposite, as in the Alabama offense against the Georgia defense. Personnel-wise, the matchup to watch is Fromm, Chubb and Michel for the Bulldogs against Payne and junior safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The winner of that battle will have a great opportunity to take home all of the marbles on Monday night.
The game kicks off Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN