The second College Football Playoff semifinal features No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 29 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Returning national champion Alabama (13-0) is in the Playoff for the fifth consecutive season. The Crimson Tide ranked second in the FBS in scoring offense (47.9) and fourth in scoring defense (14.8). Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa helped transform the offense into the best version yet under coach Nick Saban.
Oklahoma has a record-setting quarterback too, in Kyler Murray. The Sooners led the FBS in scoring offense with 49.5 points per game. Oklahoma, however, ranked No. 96 in scoring defense (32.4). Lincoln Riley doesn’t apologize for that style either. If the Sooners win, then it’s going to be a shootout.
The winner advances to the College Football Playoff championship game, which will be played on Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
With that in mind, here is a look at how those teams stack up:
How to watch Alabama-Oklahoma
The Capital One Orange Bowl can be seen on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 29. The game will be televised nationally but can streamed online at WatchESPN.com.
Alabama-Oklahoma betting trends
— Alabama opened as a 14-point favorite, which seems eye-popping but should not come as a surprise. The Crimson Tide were favored by double digits in every game this season.
— Alabama was 8-5 against the spread against FBS opponents, and was 1-1 ATS in games where they were favored by fewer than 20 points. That included a 29-0 cover against LSU and a 35-28 miss against Georgia. Oklahoma was 5-8 against the spread this season, but this is their first game as the underdog in 2018.
— The over/under is 80.5. Alabama hit the over in eight of their games this season. Oklahoma hit the over in 11 of their 13 games.
Three keys for Alabama-Oklahoma
— Kyler vs. Tua. The quarterback matchup is one for the ages, and everybody knows the stats about Tagovailoa and the fourth quarter. That’s why the first half will be so important. Murray, however, has been lights out in the first half this season with a 215.2 passer rating, 25 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Tagovailoa, meanwhile, has a 207.3 passer rating with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half. The first half of this game might put Twitter servers on notice. If the Sooners survive that initial rush, the second half will be legendary.
— Turnovers. In a game with these kind of offenses, two turnovers can be fatal. Oklahoma had a minus-2 turnover ratio this season, and that won’t cut it against it the Crimson Tide. Alabama was plus-8 and committed an average of one turnover per game.
— Red-zone TDs. Alabama has the third best red-zone defense in the nation. Opponents have scored just 17 touchdowns in 30 red zone visits. Oklahoma, meanwhile, ranked No. 13 in red zone offense and scored 42 touchdowns in 63 visits. Alabama scored 48 touchdowns in 68 red zone visits. Both teams have to cash in every time here.
Alabama-Oklahoma stat that matters
Yards per play. Oklahoma leads the FBS with 8.8 yards per play. Alabama ranks seventh with 7.9 yards per play. Both teams can move the ball at will, and a few punts could swing momentum. That means the defenses have to force a few third-and-longs and get off the field. The Crimson Tide allow 4.5 yards per play, and the Sooners allow 6.0 yards per play. Oklahoma is fine with those numbers. We’ll see if that bothers the Alabama defense.
The Sooners’ lowest average yards per play in a game this season was 6.9. The highest total Alabama allowed this season was 5.7. Pay attention where to those numbers are throughout the game. It will say a lot about who is controlling the tempo.
We love the stage, especially with the Heisman backdrop between Murray and Tagovailoa. The Sooners won the last meeting 45-31 in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, and that is a game that has stuck with Alabama fans ever since. The first half will be wildly entertaining, and the Sooners have to avoid the early knockout punch. Alabama, however, will make the right adjustments and take control in the second half. Tagovailoa and Murray will both put up big numbers, but it’s Alabama that advances to its fourth College Football Playoff championship game.
Alabama-Oklahoma final score
Alabama 44, Oklahoma 34