4-Down Territory: Playoff and New Year's Six Game Notes To Remember
1st Down: The Cotton Bowl: #10 Penn State vs #17 Memphis: For Penn State the key is to avoid the Big Letdown. PSU fans upset with a perceived Rose Bowl snub should be ready for a Memphis team that can score points behind a balanced offense. The Tigers boast a 3,500+ yard passer, a RB with 1,486 yards rushing and 532 receiving yards and a WR with 1144 yards. They use RBs as WRs and WRs as RBs to create match-up problems. How PSU chooses to play the match-up game will be one of the things to watch. When Penn State has the ball they’ll face a solid Memphis defense. The Tigers are Top 25 in passing yards allowed and passing efficiency defense, but allow a lot of rushing yards. If they can get PSU into long yardage downs they do have a potent pass rush. The key for PSU will be avoiding the big turnover and playing with high intensity.
2nd Down: The Peach Bowl: #1 LSU vs #4 Oklahoma: QB Joe Burrow has played a stellar season this year for LSU but has never played on the playoff stage. On the other side Jalen Hurts has been on this stage before. This could be a wide-open shootout given the firepower on both offensive units. For Oklahoma to win they may need to get a big turnover or a big play in the kicking game (perhaps even stealing a possession with a fake punt). The Sooners have suffered key injuries and suspensions so they will be short-handed. For LSU they must respect the threat that OU’s explosive playmakers present on offense. Jalen Hurts is a big QB and his physical running style can be the X-factor in this game. Last year Oklahoma fell behind early against Alabama before hitting the gas and trying to catch up to the Tide. If that is the case this year, forget about it. Joe Burrow has proven that he can make the clutch throws late in games while protecting a lead. In 5 years of the College Football Playoff the #1 seed has never won the title...can LSU break the curse?
3rd Down: The Fiesta Bowl: #2 Clemson vs #3 Ohio State: All year long Clemson was disrespected and doubted because of their perceived soft schedule. Yet when it came time to seed the teams it seemed NO ONE wanted to play them in the semifinals. Why? Because everyone knows that this is a damn good football team that hasn’t lost in two years. Ohio State is coming off a season-ending run of double-digit wins over Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Gunslingers Justin Fields from Ohio State and Trevor Lawrence from Clemson can fire it with the best of them. But both of them are about to face the best pass rush units either one of them have faced all year. OSU’s o-line has been vulnerable to good pass rush units so that could be a problem. For OSU’s defense the secondary match-ups will be important and the LBs will have to keep Clemson’s TB from getting downfield. Both of these teams have explosive playmakers on offense and a missed tackle could mean 7 points. With the kind of speed on both teams, look for a big play on special teams to perhaps be the difference.
4th Down: Best of the Rest: 12/30 Orange Bowl: #9 Florida vs #24 Virginia: Florida’s defense will be a stern test for Virginia’s offense. The Gators thrive on getting turnovers…..1/1 Citrus Bowl: #13 Alabama vs #14 Michigan: If the playoff committee was relying on “The Eye Test” to rank the teams and they believe Alabama is the 13th-best team in the country, it is time for them get laser surgery for their vision. This is an explosive offensive football team with receivers that will be man-to-man match-up nightmares for the Michigan secondary. Expect to see the Wolverines play some more zone coverage……1/1 Rose Bowl: #6 Oregon vs #8 Wisconsin: These are two teams with experienced and physical offensive lines who want to run the ball. Wisconsin’s defense could be the advantage here…..1/1 Sugar Bowl: #5 Georgia vs #7 Baylor: Georgia is back in the Sugar Bowl and is determined to avoid a repeat of last year’s upset loss to Texas. For Baylor a win here really is a chance to show the country they are more than just a regional Big 12 player.
College Football Relic: On January 1, 1948 Penn State's integrated football team played in the Cotton Bowl. It marked the first time that any black players had been in that game. Here is a shot of Penn State's Wally Triplett (#12) in action in that game that ended in a 13-13 tie with SMU. Penn State returns to the Cotton Bowl tomorrow.