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Bowl Preview: Oklahoma vs. Clemson (Orange Bowl) 

The National Championship semifinals highlight this year’s New Year’s Eve Bowl card with top-seeded Clemson meeting the four-seed Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl in South Beach. Clemson ran the table with a perfect 13-0 regular season slate that included wins over Notre Dame and Florida State. Oklahoma overcame a Red River vapor lock vs. Texas to be the hottest team down the stretch beating Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State their final three games to win the Big 12 outright and earn their ticket to the playoffs. In fact, the Sooners were immediately made -3 point favorites and that has been bet up to -4 in most places. The total opened at 65, was bet down to 64, has seen some action on the over and seems to have settled on 64 and the hook. The
temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the low 80’s with a 50% chance of scattered showers throughout the night. The game will be carried on ESPN.

Oklahoma is led by the fiery Texas Tech walk on Baker Mayfield. Many thought that the junior from Austin should have received more Heisman consideration after throwing for 3389 yards with a sparkling 35/5 TD/INT ratio. Mayfield has plenty of weapons to work with including a two-headed dragon backfield of Samaje Perine (1291, 15 TDs) and Joe Mixon (749, 7 TDs). Mayfield can also hurt you with his feet having kicked in 431 yards and seven ground scores himself. Sterling Sheppard (79, 1201, 11 TDs) is flat out one of the top three receivers in college football and is a sure fire first round draft pick in April. The Sooner defense was far and away the best in the Big 12 and good by any standard.

Clemson is led by Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson (70%, 3512, 30/11 + 887 11 TDs) who was able to stay healthy for 13 games after battling injuries early in his career. Wayne Gallman (1332, 10 TDs) is the feature back that runs behind a big physical offensive line. The Tigers have a talented receiving corp and Watson spreads the ball around. Artavis Scott is the go to guy with 84 catches for 805 yards while Deon Cain is the deep threat averaging better than 17 yards per from his 34 grabs. The Clemson defense is one of the best in the country ranking 5th against the pass and 7th overall and also features what figures to be several high NFL draft picks.

This game features an interesting storyline in that Clemson embarrassed Oklahoma 40-6 in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl. In that game, Clemson seemed to know exactly what was coming and for the most part did is taking the ball away five times including three picks. Clemson DC Brent Venables was the long time DC at Oklahoma under Stoops and he had his defense well prepared. This prompted “Big Game” Bob to fire former player and OC Josh Heupel and bring in Lincoln Riley who had roots at Texas Tech and was familiar with Mayfield. The Oklahoma offense comes in on a big time roll having put 50 on the board in five of its last seven games and averaging better than 300 yards on the ground of late. They face the best defense they will have seen all year here. That said, the quarterback for Clemson last year was not Watson but the incompetent Cole Stoudt. This one is going to be good!

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