The first college football national semifinal probably has common fans perplexed with the college football odds of top-seeded Clemson as the underdog against No. 4 Oklahoma.
The Tigers are the only team yet to lose a game and while the Sooners have been terrific down the stretch this season, they still own perplexing loss to Texas back in the second week of October. But many football handicappers and those setting college football odds agree, Bob Stoops team has gotten better, which is not necessarily the case for Clemson who finished 1-4 ATS.
At Heritage the line opened lowered seed Oklahoma up as three-point favorites and they have since been bumped to -4, is Clemson not as good as there ranking suggests or are they being undervalued? Here is how Dabo Swinney's proves their ranking.
What Clemson Does Offensively to Negate Oklahoma Defense
Playing in the Big 12, Oklahoma is understands spread attacks which should help them in preparation. But they have not faced a duel threat quarterback like Deshaun Watson, who directed the nation's No. 23 passing offense (289 yards a game)while contributing 887 rushing yards to a running attack that was also 23rd nationally (221 YPG).
What is important to know is Clemson can lineup in their power formations, with a tight end or H-Back which gives them a lead blocker when attack the A or B gaps. If the offensive lines does its job against the Sooners defensive front, this blocker has a running start to find a linebacker or safety and Watson or leading rusher Wayne Gallman just have read and go off blocks.
If Clemson decides to run wide, Oklahoma better not have its linebackers get pinched to the inside because this is where they could get smoked for big gains. What the Tigers have to do is be patient with the run and maintain 45 carries a game, because this help set up the pass.
Watson is accomplished deep passer, but his best skill is throwing slants to either side of the field. Clemson has NFL-type pass catchers and while they face players of similar skill in the Big 12, they have not faced a passer when hit a receiver in stride on these 7-to-12 yard passes. If Clemson has success, they can start carving up Sooners secondary and then go deep.
Clemson Defense, Bring the Pressure
Both teams have talented front seven's which can create pressure to upset timing of opponents passing games. Each had 38 sacks, but Clemson's tended to occur on almost any down, not just third and long. This means Oklahoma better be able to block Shaq Lawson and company because they relentless. While quarterback Baker Mayfield is tough and very good thrower, on occasion he gets a little emotional and this will no doubt be part of the Tigers strategy and important for sports picks.
Coach Swinney's defense has to continually win first and second down because the Sooners have run the ball on everyone since Texas loss and what they will need to do is jump the gaps and linebackers have to stay home because the Oklahoma runners are quite good cutting back against the grain.
Bottom Line for Clemson
The Tigers will be fueled by being underdog despite higher ranking. Offensively, it's about executing and not making turnovers and if Sooners have success jumping slants, this sets up slant and go moves for Clemson receivers, which could lead to huge plays.
On defensive, it's about forcing Oklahoma out of what they do best and making Mayfield be under duress. The Sooners will apply pressure because of the pace they play at, but Clemson has the horses to slow them down. For college football picks, the Tigers could definitely be a live underdog.