This year’s Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl will serve as the first game in the College Football Playoff national semi-finals. The no. 4 Oklahoma Sooners of the Big 12 and no. 1 LSU Tigers of the SEC will kick it off at 4:00 EST on Saturday, December 28 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Current betting odds list the Tigers as 12.5-point favorites with an ambitious over/under of 75.5 points. Click here to get a full list of this year’s bowl games and betting odds for each game.
Oklahoma is the only one of the four teams in the CFP to lose a game during the regular season. The Sooners suffered a surprising road loss against Kansas State in late October, a loss that nearly ruined their season. However, Oklahoma was able to bounce back and survive close games with the likes of Iowa State, TCU, and Baylor (twice) to finish the season 12-1 and win their fifth consecutive Big 12 championship.
After sneaking into the top-4 with some favorable results elsewhere, the Sooners will be making their third straight trip to the CFP. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone well for Lincoln Riley and company in their first two trips. Two years ago, they fell short in a double-overtime game against Georgia in the Rose Bowl. Last season, Oklahoma trailed Alabama 21-0 after the first quarter, eventually losing 45-34 despite a valiant comeback. The Sooners hope the third time will be the charm, as they are once again set to face the champions of the SEC.
As for LSU, they are in the CFP for the first time, doing so as the top seed. The Bayou Bengals were a perfect 13-0 on the season despite facing a demanding schedule. LSU knocked off the likes of Texas, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama before dismantling Georgia 37-10 in the SEC Championship Game to earn their first conference title since 2011.
This might be LSU’s first time in the CFP, but they are no stranger to major bowl games. Last year, the Tigers beat Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. LSU was also invited to the Citrus Bowl in back-to-back years prior to that, giving Ed Orgeron and the current roster plenty of experience playing in big games.
Not surprisingly, the history between LSU and Oklahoma is somewhat limited. However, the two teams did meet in the Sugar Bowl following the 2003 season in a game that served as the BCS National Championship Game. Despite the Sooners being favored, the Tigers won the game 21-14 to claim their first national championship in over 40 yards.
Straight up, I like LSU to win this game, but I can’t abide by a spread this big. Other than their blowout of Georgia in the SEC title game, most of LSU’s wins over upper-echelon teams this year came in close games. Oklahoma may be a level below the three other teams in the Playoff, but not by much. I think the Sooners will make this interesting and beat the spread.
My biggest concern when it comes to laying down this many points is the LSU defense. On paper, the Tigers gave up around 21 points per game this year. They also looked great late in the season against Texas A&M and Georgia. But there were plenty of red flags for the LSU defense during the season. They gave up at least 28 points in five games, including against the likes of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. The Tigers had a tendency to relax defensively and let teams hang around after getting out to a comfortable lead. Obviously, they’ll be a little more focused against Oklahoma. But I don’t see them slamming the door on the Sooners, even if they get out to a lead.
Oklahoma’s offense is as potent as any in the country. Jalen Hurts has re-emerged on the national stage after getting benched at Alabama two years ago. In fact, he’s a far better player than he was with the Crimson Tide. When the Sooners have needed him to carry them on his back, Hurts has answered the call. The Tigers should know from facing him at Alabama that he’s a handful as both a runner and a passer. Meanwhile, the Sooners have a good supporting cast around Hurts, most notably wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and running back Kennedy Brooks. Both are big-time playmakers who can take advantage of holes in the LSU defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Oklahoma defense might be the biggest X-factor in this game. That side of the ball has held the Sooners back in recent years, but they were much-improved on defense this season. Nobody’s saying that stopping Heisman winner Joe Burrow and the LSU offense will be easy. But the Sooners have enough talent in the front-7 to slow down LSU’s running game and put a little pressure on Burrow. I have some concerns about the OU secondary, but I still think the Sooners can offer a fair amount of resistance.
In the end, the Oklahoma defense isn’t going to roll over and the Oklahoma offense will find a way to create explosive plays. The Sooners playing in the national semi-final the past two seasons should also pay dividends, especially since they’ve faced adversity in both games and responded well. Again, I think LSU will win, but I’d be surprised if they ran away with this game as they did in the SEC Championship Game. I’ll take my chances with Oklahoma being able to beat the 12.5-point spread.