The Mercury News Weekend
TODAY’S CFP SEMIFINAL GAMES
ALABAMA-NOTRE DAME IN RELOCATED ROSE BOWL
Rose Bowl: No. 1 Alabama (11-0, No. 1 CFP) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1, No. 4 CFP), at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, today, 1 p.m. (ESPN).
Line: Alabama by 19 1/2.
Series record: Notre Dame leads 5-2.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Alabama is trying to get in the College Football Playoff championship game for the fifth time in six seasons. Notre Dame is making its second CFP appearance, two years after a 30-3 loss to Clemson at AT&T Stadium. The Crimson Tide and Irish last played eight seasons ago, when Alabama won 42-14 in the BCS national title game on Jan. 7, 2013, in suburban Miami, where this year’s CFP title game is scheduled Jan. 11.
KEY MATCHUP: Notre Dame QB Ian Book vs. Alabama defense. The fifth- year senior, a two-time captain, is the school’s winningest starting quarterback (304) and had 266 consecutive attempts between his two interceptions this season. He completed 64% percent of his passes for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns, and rushed for 430 yards and eight scores. The Crimson Tide did allow 46 points to Florida while Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask threw for 408 yards in the SEC title game, but their previous six opponents combined for only 53 points. Alabama has 32 sacks and has returned three of its 11 interceptions for touchdowns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Alabama: Junior QB Mac Jones and senior WR DeVonta Smith, both Heisman Trophy finalists. Jones has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 TDs with four interceptions while completing 76.5% (250 of 327) of his passes. Smith is the SEC career leader with 40 TD catches, with a school-record 17 this season when he has 98 receptions for 1,511 yards.
Notre Dame: Senior LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The AP All-American also won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker with 56 tackles (38 solos), 11 tackles for loss. He had one interception and recovered two fumbles, one he returned for a touchdown in a win against Clemson.
FACTS & FIGURES: Relocated from its traditional home in Pasadena because of COVID-19 restrictions in California, the Rose Bowl will be the second New Year’s Six game played at AT&T Stadium in less than 48 hours. The Cotton Bowl was Wednesday night.
CLEMSON-OHIO STATE IN SUGAR BOWL
No. 2 Clemson (10-1, No. 2 College Football Playoff) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (6-0, No. 3 CFP), today, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
LINE: Clemson by 7
Series record: Clemson leads 4-0.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?: A berth in the College Football Playoff national championship game in Miami on Jan. 11. Clemson is seeking its fifth appearance in the title game since the four-team CFP playoff debuted in the 2014 season. Ohio State is eyeing its first finals appearance since January 2015 when the Buckeyes won their last national title.
KEY MATCHUP: Ohio State QB Justin Fields, an adept scrambler who is averaging about 254 yards and better than two TDs passing per game, against a Clemson defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in yards allowed per game (298.5), has had multiple sacks in every game and has three defensive touchdowns on fumble returns. PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ohio State: Fields has completed 72.6% of his passes for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs against five INTs in six games. He also has 274 yards and five TDs rushing; RB Trey Sermon has averaged 112 yards rushing, and is coming off a school record-breaking 331 against Northwestern; WR Garrett Wilson has 38 catches for 621 yards and five TDs; WR Chris Olave has 36 catches for 528 yards and five TDs; All-America CB Shaun Wade has two INTs. Clemson: QB Trevor Lawrence is widely expected to be selected first overall in the 2021NFL draft after passing for 2,753yards and 22TDs against just four INTs in nine games — all victories. Lawrence has completed 69.2% of his passes and also has rushed for 211yards and seven TDs; RB Travis Etienne leads Clemson in rushing with 882yards and 13TDs to go with 44catches for 524yards and two TDs; WR Amari Rodgers has 69catches for 966yards and seven TDs. LB Baylon Spector has 9 ½ tackles for loss and 3 ½ sacks. FACTS & FIGURES: Clemson is making its sixth straight playoff appearance. The Tigers won CFP titles in the 2016 and 2018 seasons and lost the championship game in the 2015 and 2019 seasons. ... Ohio State is making its second straight playoff appearance and fourth overall.
... Clemson beat Ohio State 29-23 in a Fiesta Bowl CFP semifinal last season. Clemson also beat Ohio State 31-0 in a 2016 Fiesta Bowl semifinal.