The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (13-0) either took home or were at least in contention for mountains of hardware during their perfect regular season. Quarterback Deshaun Watson picked up ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors, defensive end Shaq Lawson nearly won Defensive Player of the Year, Dabo Swinney was named the conference’s best head coach, and five players made the All-ACC first team offense.
But Watson and every either Tiger knows none of those accolades will matter unless they can defeat the dangers No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (11-1) in Thursday afternoon’s College Football Playoff Orange Bowl semifinal.
The winner moves on to the CFP national title game to face either No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Michigan State, who will play several hours after Clemson and Oklahoma clash.
With Heisman Trophy candidate Watson in tow, the Tigers ran the regular season table by averaging 38.5 points per contest and letting up just 20.2 points to opponents and captured their first undefeated season since they last won the national championship in 1981.
The sophomore Watson fired off 3,512 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, while running back Wayne Gallman ran down 1,332 yards and 10 more scores as the Tigers toppled ranked opponents Notre Dame, Florida State, and North Carolina to become the darlings of the ACC and the CFP.
Yet the Sooners, led by junior quarterback Baker Mayfield, enter the matchup red-hot and may be the only side capable in the four-deep CFP field to equal or better Clemson’s firepower.
After suffering a difficult loss to unranked and struggling Texas, Oklahoma went on to win its next seven games and took the Big 12 from recent champions Baylor and TCU and besting rival Oklahoma State with a 58-23 shellacking in the deciding conference game to close out the regular season.
Mayfield’s proved sensational all season and many pegged him as a fourth finalist for the Heisman behind Watson. The Austin, Texas native gunned down 3,389 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to five interceptions, and three of those picks came over the Sooners last 10 games.
And just like Watson, Mayfield as a host of top flight weapons at his disposal, which explains the high 64-point over/under total listed by Las Vegas. Sophomore running back Samaje Perine eclipsed the 100-yard mark in five games this season and gathered 1,291 yards and 15 touchdowns altogether, while Mayfield and freshman rusher Joe Mixon each chipped in seven more scores.
Senior and NFL-bound wide receiver Sterling Shepard led the Sooners with 79 receptions for 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns, and freshman tight end Mark Andrews wrangled in six touchdowns off 17 receptions.
Start Time: Thursday, 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Odds: Oklahoma -3.5
Over/Under: 64 points
Prediction: Clemson over Oklahoma, 34-31