Orange Bowl 2018 : Saturday’s second College Football Playoff semifinal matchup features a pair of conference champions battling for the opportunity to play for the national championship. Alabama, the SEC champions, will begin its quest for a second straight national title against Oklahoma, the Big 12 champions.
The Crimson Tide, entering the matchup at 13-0, are in the CFP for the fifth straight season. They have won the national title in two of the previous three years.
The Sooners, who are 12-1, are seeking their first CFP win. They previously lost semifinal matchups in the 2015 and 2017 seasons. Last season, they were defeated by Georgia in two overtimes in the Rose Bowl.
Alabama owns only one win over Oklahoma, which came in 1963. The Sooners have taken the last three meetings between the two schools, including the last one in 2014.
Orange Bowl 2018
Date: Saturday, Dec. 29
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN or ESPN app
Odds (via OddsShark): Alabama -14; Over/Under: 77
The last time Alabama played a game, backup quarterback Jalen Hurts led a comeback victory in the SEC Championship Game after Tua Tagovailoa exited with a high ankle sprain.
Tagovailoa, who has had an impressive season en route to being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, updated his status this week, saying that his ankle is at 80-85 percent. Although the sophomore quarterback isn’t at 100 percent he is optimistic for Saturday.
“I believe we’ll be able to feel a lot more comfortable in the pocket, moving around,” Tagovailoa said at Orange Bowl media day on Thursday, according to AL.com. “You know, yesterday was a testament to that. I got the opportunity to do a lot of things in practice that I wasn’t able to do the last week.”
If Tagovailoa can lead Alabama’s offense at the same level he did all season, it should bode well for the Crimson Tide.
On the other side, Oklahoma’s high-powered offense will be led by quarterback Kyler Murray, the Heisman winner who may be playing the final game of his football career. Murray, who was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the No. 9 pick in the 2018 MLB draft, is expected to begin his professional baseball career in the spring.
But Murray is currently set on trying to lead the Sooners to the national championship.
“Right now my main focus is this game,” Murray said on Thursday, according to ESPN.com.
Murray will have a tough challenge facing an Alabama defense that has a multiple future NFL players leading the way.
Orange Bowl 2018 Prediction
Alabama 38, Oklahoma 28
Both teams will put up a lot of points early, but Alabama’s defensive experience will help in the second half as the Crimson Tide will hold on to return to the CFP National Championship for the fourth straight year.
As long as Tagovailoa is healthy and can help Alabama’s strong offense continue to roll, it will be tough for any team to take down the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff.