Peak bowl season is upon us in the world of college football, which means we are just days away from the College Football Playoff and oh what a beautiful thing that will be. With that in mind, it’s time for a College Football Playoff primer via the Hour Glass. If you just started checking in to what we are doing, the Hour Glass is our analytical system for projecting college football games. The 2018 College Football Hour Glass will be out in April, right after the conclusion of March Madness.
This past year we projected 526 games in college football, rolled it out in April and the results were amazing. We pegged 83% of all games predicted (434-92) and were 64% against the spread. The system pegged 72% of all Power Five teams within two games or less on their exact win total, we predicted 7-10 conference championship participants and four of five conference champions.
Now it’s time to finish up a great 2017 season on the biggest stage. In our initial rankings back in April, Alabama was number one overall in our power metric, while Oklahoma was number two. Clemson was number six in our metric and Georgia at 16, but we had the Dawgs 11-1 and losing the SEC Championship. They won that championship, and Ohio State, Florida State and Washington fell off the College Football Playoff map; teams we had ranked 3-5.
So let’s get to how we see this playoff playing out – using adjusted metrics for coaching and quarterback play.
College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
5 p.m., ESPN
Georgia has been a fantastic story in 2017, as Kirby Smart defied odds, had to ride the wave of a freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm and deal with late season adversity, losing on the Plains to Auburn. The Dawgs made it to Atlanta, got revenge on Auburn and here they are. Many felt Georgia would be well- Georgia in 2017, after going 8-5 in year one of the Smart era, but we saw their talent trend and how it was moving fast in the positive direction and how close they were last year to being an 11 win team. We stuck to our guns, pegged them 11-1, but did not have in the playoff this quickly.
Georgia brings in a salty defense giving up only 13.2 points per game and on offense they are a run heavy team averaging 264 yards per game, but get just enough out of the passing game to keep you honest. Georgia has the talent advantage in this game as far as overall team talent, coming into the year ranked fifth on our talent metric, while Oklahoma came into 2017 at 12th. Talent on talent they are separated by seven points on our talent scale.
Coaching is basically even in this match up because both staffs have not coached in this setting. This will be the biggest game either coach will have coached in, in their career’s on Monday afternoon.
That leads us to Oklahoma – a team we had pegged as the second best team in the country coming into the year, even after Bob Stoops stepped down last summer. Quarterback play is a key ingredient in our metric and we had Baker Mayfield tied for number one in the country in our Power Five quarterback rankings. We did have the Sooners losing on the road to Ohio State early in they year but, Mayfield showed just how important the position is, dominating Ohio State on the road.
This playoff game opened in Vegas with Oklahoma a 1-point favorite, but the money has swung big time on Georgia as they are now a 2- point favorite over the Sooners. Collective reasoning would tell you that Georgia will run the football down the throats of Oklahoma, a team that plays in the Big-12 and a league with no defense and will pressure Mayfield like he hasn’t seen all year.
But – we will stick with our formula and metric. Better talent, advantage Georgia; coaching is even, but when we are talking quarterback play it isn’t even close and how can you bet against Baker Mayfield?
Mayfield threw 41 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions all season and hasn’t had a negative touchdown to interception ball game since December 31st, 2015 – When Oklahoma lost to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals 37-17.
I wouldn’t be shocked with any outcome in this ball game, but we are sticking with our preseason number – two ranked power team in the country, Oklahoma in this game. Georgia’s only loss of the season was to the best quarterback they faced all year in Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. Stidham rung up 214 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Dawgs, giving Georgia their only loss back on November 11th. Baker Mayfield has shined all year and will shine the brightest, Monday afternoon on the biggest stage.
Oklahoma 29 Georgia 24
College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl
No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson
8:45 p.m., ESPN
Alabama – Clemson part III takes place Monday night and while many may be growing tired of the Alabama – Clemson narrative, count me in the group that loves it. These two have played back to back classic games, splitting both for the National Championship, so it only makes sense to square off a third time to see who will once again play for it all.
We had Alabama number one in the country back in April and Clemson at 11-1 with a road loss at Florida State. Once Deondre Francois went down, we re-adjusted win totals and had Clemson back in the College Football Playoff for 2017-18.
Alabama was the early favorite in Vegas at -2 in this game and that number has climbed to a -3. On our metric, Alabama has a slight coaching advantage, but by only just a bit as both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are no stranger to this setting or moment.
Talent on talent, Alabama has the advantage as the top recruiter in the country and should get several bodies back off injury for this one. Clemson has the ninth best talent in the country on our scale, but only eight slots behind Alabama. Both teams continue to recruit at a high level, keeping both programs in the elite category on talent.
So that takes us to who has the advantage at quarterback in this one? Kelly Bryant has done a nice job replacing Deshaun Watson and while you cannot really replace Watson’s productivity, Bryant gives Clemson that dual threat option – something that has given Alabama fits in the past. Bryant has 11 rushing touchdowns on the year, and while only throwing for 13 touchdowns, he is completing 67 percent of his passes on the year.
Meanwhile his counterpart Jalen Hurts comes into this ballgame 25-2 as a starter, has only thrown one interception on the year, completed 61 percent of his passes and if you listen to some talking heads, he may still be in jeopardy of losing his job to Tua Tagovailoa come the spring. Hurts is a winner, a competitor and while his passing stats won’t wow you, he has shown he wins these ball games more times than not.
And if the talking heads are correct, then this is the most important moment in Hurts career; a game he cannot afford to squander.
In Alabama’s only loss this year, on the road at Auburn, the Tide played about as bad as they could play and it was still a six point ball game late in the third period with Alabama squandering a field goal opportunity.
Hurt’s has been here before, Bryant has not and there is something to a learning curve in these ball games. Also, this game will have a pro Alabama crowd feel to it in the Superdome, a place Alabama is familiar with. It should be another classic, but this time Alabama comes out on top.
Alabama 31 Clemson 24