The top four teams in college football are finally ready to face off in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Our experts are here with their best bets for the two big games:
No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-20, 65.5)
Edwards: I like Alabama -19 or 19.5 for the game, but my favorite play with the most muscle behind it for money-management purposes is Nick Saban's team -11 in the first half. The Crimson Tide have covered the spread for first-half bets in seven straight gamesand are 9-2 ATS for first-half bets this season. Mac Jones will get after the Notre Dame defense early and often throwing to DeVonta Smith and John Metchie. When he's not stretching the field hitting those burners, he's handing off to the best RB in the nation in Najee Harris, who is poised for another monster performance.
Pick: Alabama -11 1H
Kramer: I have attempted to make a case for Notre Dame with as many points as you can grab, and I have struggled to make one I feel good about. Sure, you could count on special teams or turnovers, and maybe you’ll be right. But there’s just not many -- any? -- places on the field that Notre Dame has an advantage. That said, I like the under. While Alabama has regularly hit the over this year at an impressive clip, this will be one of the best defenses it sees all year. On the other side, I think we’ll see a much more complete effort from the Alabama defense largely because Notre Dame won’t be able to move the ball with the same pace. There will be points, just not as many as some think.
Pick: Under 65.5
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 2 Clemson Tigers (-7.5, 66.5)
Edwards: Ohio State has collected four of its six wins over teams with losing records. The Buckeyes have played two decent (not great) teams in Indiana at home in Columbus, and Northwestern on a neutral field less than two weeks ago. They were fortunate to get a pick-six and multiple stops late in the fourth quarter while leading by only seven to hold off Indiana in a 42-35 non-covering win as 21-point home favorites. In the Big Ten Championship Game, Northwestern led nearly the entire way until Ohio State took its first lead since early in the first quarter late in the third quarter and then pulled away for a 22-10 win. If the Wildcats had been given just decent -- instead of horrible -- QB play from Peyton Ramsey, they would've had a great chance of knocking off the Buckeyes.
Clemson took its only loss in double overtime at Notre Dame when Trevor Lawrence was out and 3-4 starters on defense were out injured. All of those guys are back now, and that was evident in a 34-10 win over the Fighting Irish at the ACC Championship Game. If your number is 7.5, buy the half-point to the key number of seven. I'm on Clemson.
Pick: Clemson -7.5
Tuley: We all know Clemson is a juggernaut and its only loss came in overtime at Notre Dame with Trevor Lawrence out and the Tigers are rightly the No. 2 team in the country and rightly favored here. However, Ohio State deserves to be here, too, despite its short schedule and has the talent to play with or beat the Tigers. Heck, we just have to look to last year’s national semifinal with these two teams having pretty much the same rosters. Ohio State lost 29-23 (and had a chance at the outright win on a final drive that ended with an INT in the end zone) and didn’t cover because they were only 2.5-point underdogs, but a similar score would get them the cover with this overinflated line. I don’t put too much stock in “bulletin-board motivation,” which in this case comes from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranking Ohio State only at No. 11 due to its six-game schedule. Teams playing for a spot in the national championship game shouldn’t need any added motivation -- but if it helps, so be it.
Pick: Ohio State + 7.5
Kramer: The hate between these two teams feels very real, which is a good thing. I’m not sure it’ll impact the outcome at all -- although penalties and poise are something to keep an eye on. Amid the narrative of making the playoff and total games played, it feels like there is some value on Ohio State. Getting wideout Chris Olave back is massive for the Buckeyes. And, assuming Justin Fields’ thumb is healthy, I believe we see a much more polished effort by this offense. This game could largely mimic the matchup from last year. Close, high-level football.
Pick: Ohio State + 7.5