CFP Playoff Preview

December 31, 2017

ROSE BOWL (Pasadena): Oklahoma (12-1) vs Georgia (12-1); 5 PM ET; ESPN

The big-time CFP playoff games get underway late Monday afternoon when Oklahoma plays Georgia in the Rose Bowl. And much of the focus in this game, at least from the perspective of NFL scouts will be Sooners’ QBs Baker Mayfield (#6, 6-1, 220), this year’s Heisman Trophy winner after throwing for over 4,300 yards and 41 TDs this fall while completing 71% of his pass attempts and throwing just 5 picks. However, Mayfield is something of a polarizing prospect for the upcoming draft; he isn’t that tall and has had some off-field issues. On the other hand, though, there are NFL people who will tell you that he’d be a candidate to be the first player selected if he three inches taller, but so let the debate begin.

Oklahoma also has several other potential Top 50 prospects including mammoth junior OT Orlando Brown (#78, 6-7, 345), edge rushing OLB Ogbonnia Okronkwo (#31, 6-1, 240), a rising star who had 8 sacks and 9.5 other tackles for loss this fall, and big-play junior TE Mark Andrews (#81, 6-5, 255). Meanwhile, other Sooners to watch including CB Jordan Thomas (#7, 6-0, 185), SS Steven Parker (#10, 6-0, 205); and DE D.J. Ward (#87, 6-2, 240).

In the end, though, who goes on to the national championship game likely will come down OU’s Mayfield against the aggressive Georgia defense led by junior OLB Roquan Smith (#3, 6-0, 225), who is starting to generate some top 10-20 buzz of his own. Smith isn’t all that big, but he can really run and is an explosive hitter when he gets there; this fall, he led the Dawgs with 113 tackles including 5.5 sacks.  Meanwhile, UGA has arguably the best 1-2 punch at RB in the country in seniors Nick Chubb (#27, 5-9, 225) and Sony Michel (#1, 5-10, 215) who have combined for over 2,000 rushing yards and 26 TDs this fall. Along the way, Chubb, who has bounced back nicely from a devastating leg injury two years ago, has averaged 6.2 yards per carry, while Michel has been even better with a 7.2 figure per pop. They run behind a solid offensive front led by rising G/T Isaiah Wynn (#77, 6-2, 305), who will play LT against Oklahoma, but is a second-day prospect at OG for the upcoming draft. The Dawgs also have an aggressive defensive front anchored by rugged NT John Atkins (#97, 6-3, 305), while rangy OLBs Lorenzo Carter (#7, 6-5, 245) and Davin Bellamy (#17, 6-5, 245) provide the speed coming off the edge.

SUGAR BOWL (New Orleans): Clemson (12-1) vs Alabama (11-1); 8:45 PM ET; ESPN

Perhaps the only negative of a semi-final rematch of last year’s dramatic national title game between Clemson and Alabama is that the two won’t be able to play in a second straight final. Whatever, this should again be a terrific game between two of the most talented teams in the country; indeed, each has at least a half dozen top 100 prospects for the upcoming draft. The best prospect in the Sugar Bowl appears to be Alabama junior CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick (#29, 6-1, 202) who has emerged as arguably the best all-around DB in college football and is currently pushing for a top 5 grade. In fact, the Tide has a full line-up of draft prospects including WR Calvin Ridley (#3, 6-0, 190), another opening round candidate, along with junior SS Ronnie Harrison (#15, 6-2, 215), LB Rashaan Evans (#32, 6-2, 235), 5T DE Da’Shawn Hand (#9, 6-3, 290), junior RBs Damien Harris (#34, 5-10, 225) and Bo Scarbrough (#9, 6-1, 235), WR Robert Foster (#1, 6-1, 195), junior OG Ross Pierschbacker (#71, 6-3, 305), C Bradley Bozeman (#75, 6-4, 315),  junior DT Da’Ron Payne (#94, 6-2, 310), CBs Anthony Averett (#28, 5-11, 185), Levi Wallace (#39, 5-11, 185) and Tony Brown (#2, 6-0, 200), and P J.K. Scott (#15, 6-5, 205).

While Alabama may have the slightly better draft class than Clemson, the defending national champions may have a more talented line-up top-to-bottom. The Tigers, for example, may have the best defensive line in college football featuring DE prospects Clelin Ferrell (#99, 6-5, 265) and Austin Bryant (#91, 6-5, 265), along with DTs Christian Wilkins (#42, 6-3, 310) and super soph Dexter Lawrence (#90, 6-4, 300). Wilkins, in particular, has Top 10 potential, while DEs Ferrell and Bryant, who combined for 16 sacks and 31.5 total tackles for loss this fall, both are late-first or early second round candidates. At the same time, rising OLB Dorian O’Daniel (#6, 6-0, 220), who 99 tackles this season including 5 sacks and 5.5 other tackles for loss, is another second-day prospect. And while it doesn’t get quite the national pub as the defensive front, the Clemson offensive line is almost as good. Junior LT Mitch Hyatt (#75, 6-5, 305), in particular, is one of the most athletic prospects at the position in the 2018 draft class, while OGs Tyrone Crowder (#55, 6-2, 340) and junior Taylor Hearn (#51, 6-4, 330) are both physical road-graders with top 100 potential. Enjoy!