College Football Playoff 2019 Picks & Predictions: Best Bets for LSU vs. Oklahoma, Clemson vs. Ohio State

College Football Playoff 2019 Picks & Predictions: Best Bets for LSU vs. Oklahoma, Clemson vs. Ohio State article feature image

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Grant Delpit

  • We've been hard at work coming up with our favorite College Football Playoff picks and boiled it down to a play in each game.
  • Oklahoma vs. LSU and Ohio State vs. Clemson are on the docket, and both provide plenty of betting value in different ways.

There are so many storylines and betting angles for this year’s College Football Playoff, that it’s hard to sift through the noise.

Can Oklahoma get any stops on defense against LSU, and will the Sooners keep the Tigers off the field with a dominant run game?

There are very few weaknesses between Clemson and Ohio State, but will Justin Fields’ limited mobility hamper the Buckeyes offense?

I’ve boiled it down to two favorite plays in each game, with an assist from Stuckey on the Oklahoma-LSU game.

Here’s how we’re betting the 2019 College Football Playoff semifinals.

College Football Playoff Betting Picks & Predictions

LSU vs. Oklahoma

The Action Network projection is LSU -8, but Oklahoma needs a clean boxscore from a turnover perspective to live up to that number.

Jalen Hurts has just not been careful with the ball — the Sooners’ rank outside the top 100 in actual turnover margin and expected turnover margin. So their misfortunes against Baylor and TCU, for example, have not been a product of bad luck.

Oklahoma needs a few things to fall its way.

  • LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s limitations due to injury may remove Joe Burrow’s primary source of check downs. This may lead to an LSU decrease in third down conversions.
  • The Sooners can cover with a clean game. While LSU is top 15 in defensive havoc, that number is completely derived from tackles for loss and passes defensed. The Tigers are the best in the nation at pass breakups and passes defensed, with a top 10 rank in interceptions. The one area LSU lacks in havoc is forced fumbles.
  • It’s possible that Hurts has a big game on the ground. Oklahoma is top 10 in line yards and that should lead to success on the ground.

Ultimately, LSU will take advantage of havoc-less Sooners defense that ranks 83rd in finishing drives to win the game.

But my money will be on Oklahoma becoming only the second underdog in College Football Playoff history to cover the spread but not win the game (the Sooners did it last year). The offense will do just enough to cover +14. — Collin Wilson

Collin’s Pick: Oklahoma +14 or better

Since I make this right around LSU -10, I bet Oklahoma at +14 and would take the Sooners at that or better.

I’m not sure if any defense can slow down Joe Burrow and the Tigers, and the Sooners almost certainly won’t, but I do think Lincoln Riley, Jalen Hurts and that extremely efficient Oklahoma offense can move the ball against LSU.

Catching two touchdowns would be too good to pass up — even if I think LSU will eventually win it all. — Stuckey

Stuckey’s Pick: Oklahoma +14 or better

Ohio State vs. Clemson

News around the Fiesta Bowl fired up on Christmas Eve, as Justin Fields informed the media of his mobility, saying it was 80 to 85% and “not where I want to be right now.” He injured his knee against Penn State in late November but has played through it.

Fields will have two knee braces available for the game depending on the pain, but he should be somewhat limited. The Ohio State offensive line ranks 100th in sack rate, and 112th in passing downs.

But those poor metrics are not just on the line — Fields holds onto the ball too long and tries to extend every play. That’s why he doesn’t throw interceptions but gets sacked regularly. — Collin Wilson

How Can Clemson Exploit Fields’ Injury?

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables must now decide if the Fields injury information is accurate and how will it affect the Tigers scheme.

Thanks to the versatility of linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Venables will be able to disguise a number of blitz packages. Expect defensive linemen, linebackers and safeties to rotate pressure in an attempt to confuse Fields and keep him on the move.

The Buckeyes will lean on J.K. Dobbins and the play-action pass to avoid negative plays. Ohio State averages less than a point per drive when highlighted with more than one negative play. Clemson is fourth in defensive havoc, and top 10 in tackles for loss.

Expect Simmons to be dialed in to Dobbins in reading run or pass plays from the Buckeyes offense. Ohio State will score on big passing plays, as the Buckeyes are 16th in rush rate and will get Clemson safeties to bite on a properly executed play-action from Fields. — Collin Wilson

How Will Clemson Deal With Chase Young?

When this semifinal was first announced my immediate thought was ‘Give me all the Trevor Lawrence rushing props’. Lawrence had 5 rushing touchdowns through the first six games of the season, ending with 407 total rushing yards on the season.

There is no doubt that Clemson will implement a double team on Ohio State star defensive end Chase Young, adding a tight end chip block much like what Michigan and Wisconsin used to limit the defensive end.

Young was held without a sack in his final two games, laying down the template for Clemson to stop the Bednarik Award winner.

Per SportsSource Analytics, Clemson has the best offensive line efficiency metric in the nation and averages just a sack per game. Most sacks against Clemson have come from the edge and catching Lawrence in time before stepping up in the pocket.

Because of the pressure from the edge, expect Trevor Lawrence to have one of his biggest days rushing the ball from stepping up in the pocket or running the RPO. Two statistics indicate Clemson is in line for a big offensive day.

Travis Etienne is the top running back in the country in total yards after contact, going against a defense that is declining in missed tackles. Per SportsSource Analytics, the Buckeyes had missed tackles just 6% of the time until their final three games.

Against the toughest part of their schedule against the best athletes, Ohio State’s missed tackle rate rose above 20% against Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The Clemson stable of receivers will have to deal with plenty of size and athleticism in the Ohio State secondary, but the rushing attack of the Tigers will be the primary driver to offensive points.

Ultimately, the game may be decided by the mobility of the two quarterbacks and their ability to escape pressure.

Justin Fields is sure to have downfield success when reading the Clemson defense correctly, but limitations in escaping the pocket will force negative plays.

Trevor Lawrence not only has the best pocket awareness in college football, but has not thrown an interception since Oct. 19.

Clemson will move on to New Orleans to compete for another national championship. — Collin Wilson

Pick: Clemson ML -130 or better

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