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Lock$ of Saturday: Playoff Weekend

By Sam Jessee | December 30
Lock$ of Saturday: Playoff Weekend

We made it!

It really is astonishing that we've made it all the way to the end of the road. In our last installment for the 2020 season, we'll take a look the two semi-final CFP matchups as well as the game totals.

A big congrats to Chris for winning the 2020 season competition between the Crew! Chris was leading in a close race all season, but killed it in the ACC win total Over/Unders going 11-4 overall. Here are the final scores:

Locks Final

This season has been a wild one to bet on. COVID has thrown quite the wrench at this season, and many times the impact that COVID has brought to these games hasn't been realized until just before kickoff time. Still, it's been a blast, and we hope you've had better luck than us this season. Let's end it with some winners!

Notre Dame +19.5 vs Alabama

Sam - Alabama -19.5

I have a general rule to not take a team favored by 3+ possessions in a game between two highly ranked teams. It’s worked most of this year (see Ohio State vs Indiana & Northwestern, for example.) But they ain’t Bama.

The Tide are averaging almost 50 points per game and have averaged a +20 point differential in their previous 4 matchups against ranked opponents. Even with an extremely stout Irish defense, I’m not sure anyone can keep the Tide under 40 points. That being said, the Irish offense has held its own this season but have shown a tendency to put together lackluster performances (27 against Duke, 12 against Louisville, 10 against Clemson). I think this game is much like last week’s SEC Championship, except Notre Dame doesn’t have the firepower that Florida has to come back and make it a game late in the 4th. The game will show signs of being competitive, but the Tide should run away with it late.

Ed - Alabama -19.5

Should the Irish be in? I don’t know. Regardless, Nick Saban’s boys are locked in. Alabama has been unstoppable all year long, and Notre Dame looked pretty pathetic against Clemson. Roll tide.

Chris - Alabama -19.5

It’s amazing that Vegas had to put the line at almost 3 TDs to believe they could get any action on Notre Dame, which is a testament to just how dominant Alabama has been all season and that trend won’t change considering there isn’t a likely scenario where Notre Dame offers any more of a challenge than say Georgia (lost to Bama by 17) or Texas A&M (lost to Bama by 28), which are the two SEC teams of similar strengths and weaknesses to Notre Dame.

Also, the reality is that there have been 12 total College Football Playoff games dating back to the 2014-15 season, and of those 12 games:

  • Six have been blowouts (margin of victory of 20+ points)

  • Three have been in the no-man’s land (margin of victory of 11-17 points)

  • Three have been close (margin of victory of 7 points or less)

The matchup here pairing Alabama’s prolific offense (passing and rushing) against Notre Dame’s biggest strength which is their rushing defense, seems to be a bit of a mismatch, and if there is one thing I have come to learn, it is never bet against Nick Saban in a game with such an obvious mismatch (Bama passing vs ND secondary). Lastly, the cherry on top regards former Notre Dame DC Clark Lea taking the Vanderbilt job (though he is coaching in this game) and having to split responsibilities for the last few weeks, meaning for once, the Bama coordinator room is more stable than their opponent. All together, it’s likely this game becomes the seventh CFP blowout.

Brett - Alabama -19.5

I think it was extremely clear in the ACCCG that Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame. I don’t want to discredit the Irish that night, they played out of their minds. A tale as old as time, Notre Dame is still just not quite there yet to compete with the big boys.

On the other end, the Tide have shown all season that are quite literally unstoppable on offense. Notre Dame’s defense was picked apart by Lawrence and Co. in the ACCCG and Mac Jones and Devonta Smith are going to do no different. It’ll be close early, but Bama gets to three scores by the end.

Robert - Alabama -19.5

This is an absurdly high line, but I do not care. It should be higher. Notre Dame proved last week that they are once again a few steps away from actually being a contender. Their vaunted defense proved unable to remotely slow down Clemson’s offense, and there will be more of the same in this game. Trying to match up against Devonta Smith is an especially difficult task for the Irish, and the Tide will roll by three touchdowns or more.

Bama2

Notre Dame vs Alabama O/U 65.5

Sam - Over 65.5

Vegas projects this game to be around the 42-24 mark in favor of the Tide, which sounds about right considering how dominant the Tide have been this season. I think we’ll see a game that almost mirrors that score and just barely hits the over. There’s some concern with how many points the Irish will be able to put up after Ian Book led the Irish to a lackluster 10 point effort against Clemson, but Alabama’s defense is simply not the lockdown unit we’re used to seeing.

Combined, these two teams go for 13-9 on overs this season, which is impressive considering how astronomical the game totals have been this season.

Ed - Over 65.5

I am a fan of Mac Jones. While the talent around him is insane, he deserves more credit than he gets. Bama should have no issue getting into the high 30s and even the 40s. On the opposite side, Ian Book is a lot of fun to watch. I’m hoping for a shootout, hammer the over.

Chris - Over 65.5

Alabama has averaged 49.5 points per game versus Notre Dame’s 35.2, which the Irish probably won’t get close to in this game. So for Bama to hit their average, cover the spread, and hit the Over of 65.5, a final score of 52-17 seems about right.

Brett - Over 65.5

The Tide are more than capable of getting into the 40s and 50s on their own this game and I think the Irish are capable of getting to 20 points. There’s a reason Mac Jones and Devonta Smith are in the Heisman running.

Robert - Under 65.5

This Alabama offense is known as the best in the country for a reason, but despite its early struggles, the Tide defense has significantly improved as the year has gone on. I see this as an Alabama domination on all fronts, meaning the Irish will be unable to do their part to secure 66 or more points here. 45-10 is my official score prediction.

ND 2020 12 30 193809

Ohio State +7.5 vs Clemson

Sam - Ohio State +7.5

Clemson has been on an absolute bender since Florida State canceled that game last minute. I’m not sure anyone in the country could’ve beaten Clemson the last 3 weeks. But that was then and this is now, and Dabo is trying his hardest to hype up the Buckeyes for this game. I really don’t understand why you would want to make the Ohio State Buckeyes, who already have the entire nation against them, even more angry for this game.

Even in a rough game against Northwestern, Ohio State figured out their best offense: hand the ball to Trey Sermon. Sermon got a lead back’s worth of carries (29) for the first time all season against Northwestern and popped off for 331 yards. That’s Ohio State’s formula in this game. Run the ball, keep Trevor Lawrence off the field.

I’m not sure Ohio State wins this game, but a one-possession game is certainly a likely scenario. Clemson is only 5-6 against the spread this season, and that’s after covering the spread in each of their last 3 matchups. Vegas has caught up, and the Buckeyes will look to make this another classic.

Ed - Ohio State +7.5

I’ve been on the OSU train all year. I love Justin Fields and still think that at full strength this Buckeye team is really, really good. Also, after the way Dabo has talked I hope Ohio State comes out and smacks him in the mouth. The Hokies laid out a nice blueprint to slowing down TLaw, and I think OSU will follow suit.

Chris - Clemson -7.5

Credit to Dabo Swinney for doubling down on his final Coaches Poll ranking of Ohio State as the #11 team overall. It’s a bold move to provide the opposing locker room with bulletin board material and I’m sure we’ll hear about it from every pundit a few thousand times before kickoff.

However, it won’t matter because in reality, Clemson is just better than Ohio State in every phase of the game, especially on the defensive side, and thanks in part to a few blueprints provided by Indiana and Northwestern, DC Brett Venables should have all the film he needs to scheme up a game plan that throttles back the Buckeye offense.

On the other side, the Buckeyes don’t have the game-altering blue-chip players as they did last season with DE Chase Young or CB Jeff Okudah or a high-level defensive coordinator like Greg Schiano, meaning they don’t have enough defense to consistently stop Clemson’s dynamic pairing of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne.

Brett - Clemson -7.5

Dabo has it out for Ohio State and I love every second of it. Clemson ran into a buzzsaw against ND on a lonely night in South Bend but other than that, they haven’t waivered one bit. Ohio State has been shaky in multiple games now, Covid-19 ridden or not. They barely beat an average Northwestern offense and Indiana gave them more problems than they wanted.

In a full season, I think this Buckeye team has a loss (but would still make the playoff). Fields really hasn’t shown me that he is a gamechanger and as Chris said, Venables has plenty of film on how to stop him.

Robert - Clemson -7.5

Has anyone heard of the Woody Hayes Curse? No? Let me tell you about it:

In the 1978 Gator Bowl, the Buckeyes and Tigers squared off for the first time in their histories. It was a tight game with a lot on the line, as many believed this game would determine if legendary coach Woody Hayes would be brought back to coach the Buckeyes the next season.

Down 17-15, the Buckeyes were driving with two minutes left to try to win the game. Clemson’s Charlie Bauman picked off a pass to seal the victory for the Tigers, returning it all the way to the Ohio State sideline where a disgruntled Hayes was waiting for him.

“You SOB, I just lost my job!” Hayes yelled at the disinterested Bauman as he reared back and punched him. That’s right, he punched him. Right in the neck.

Hayes lost his job, and Ohio State has never beat Clemson since. The Hayes Curse lives on as Dabo will go to 4-0 in his career against the Buckeyes.

Clemson

Ohio State vs Clemson O/U 66.5

Sam - Under 66.5

As I said above, I think this will be a run-heavy offense from the Buckeyes. That will have as much to do with Sermon being a monster as it will Trevor Lawrence licking his chops against a less than stellar Buckeyes secondary.

The over has hit in 5 of Clemson’s last 7 games, but that includes a 2OT game against Notre Dame and matchups against Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, and Pitt’s second-string defense. 66.5 is a lot of points in this matchup, and I think a 31-27 type game is much more likely.

Ed - Over 66.5

Once again, I’m rooting for points. Bring me all of the entertainment. Both QBs are insane, and will have been compared to each other probably since birth. I’m also not super confident in either defense, and I think TLaw and Fields are just miles ahead of everyone else on the field. Score, score, score.

Chris - Under 66.5

Of the 12 College Football Playoff games, 7 have had totals of 54 or less, which is where this game feels considering Clemson’s average of 38 points against each top defense they faced this season (Miami and ND x2) versus Ohio State’s 32 points (which varied between Northwestern and Indiana), meaning for Clemson to cover the -7.5 spread while holding back the Buckeye offense to hit the under, a final score of 38-27 seems likely.

Brett - Under 66.5

After what happened against Northwestern, I think the Buckeyes are going to tone down the passing game some if they can. Sermon is a great back as his opponent, Travis Etienne. While writing this, I learned Tony Elliot will not be traveling with the team. I think Lawrence can run the offense himself at this point, but it’s always nice to have someone like ETN as a back-up plan. Give me the under, something around 35-24.

Robert - Over 66.5

This has “QB Duel” written all over it. Trevor Lawrence/Justin Fields is becoming one of the next great player rivalries, on par with Larry Bird/Magic Johnson and Tom Brady/Peyton Manning.

These two high-school-rivals-turned-college-rivals-turned-future-top-two-draft-picks will face off for the final time before turning pro, and you can bet it will be a battle for the ages. The Tigers will be without senior safety Nolan Turner in the first half, which will open the door for Fields to put together some early scoring drives.

This will prompt Lawrence to get his share of the fun, and this could turn into a legendary shootout. I like the Tigers to win 45-35.

OSU
Sam Jessee

I'm a born and raised Hokie. My first game in Lane Stadium was in September of 1997 when Tech stomped Big East rival Syracuse 31-3. I graduated from Tech with a degree in Finance in 2019 and am currently in Blacksburg getting my MBA in data analytics and statistics. Born and raised in Richmond, VA, where I was a Deep Run Wildcat with fellow Son Grayson Wimbish, NFL Hokie Antone Exum, and Blacksburg legend Jack Click.


I'm a certified analytics nerd with a passion for data visualization and modeling. Much of my work is written with an analytical flair. I host the Lock$ of Saturday podcast where we talk all things college football betting as well work on the baseball beat.


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