The semifinal games of the College Football Playoff are hallmarked by contrasting styles. No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Oklahoma have thrived with diverse spread offenses that can stretch the field and utilize tempo to make opponents uncomfortable. No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama have kept their pro-style souls, although the Crimson Tide have evolved some in recent seasons with dual-threat Jalen Hurts at quarterback.
How will Clemson and Alabama match up in the Sugar Bowl? How will Oklahoma and Georgia match up in the Rose Bowl? Yahoo Sports spoke with coaches who’ve faced them this season to break down their strengths and weaknesses, trading their honesty for anonymity.
Here’s how they viewed the vulnerabilities and strengths of Oklahoma and Georgia.
No. 2 OKLAHOMA
“I don’t think Oklahoma has a great chance to win the national championship. The only way they’ll do it is if Baker Mayfield wills them there. Playing against Georgia in the semifinal, which isn’t explosive offensively, gives them a much better chance. They’re not great in the secondary, which makes them vulnerable to a good passing team. And how much do you trust Mike Stoops to make the right adjustments?
“Early on this year, everyone was throwing at No. 7 [Jordan Thomas], but he’s been hurt and hasn’t played a lot in the second half of the year. They’re not bad in the secondary, they’re just not great.
“Star defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is a pretty good player. But the question with Oklahoma is that they haven’t gone up against a team like Alabama, Clemson or Georgia that has the type of front that can neutralize him. When they see a big line, I definitely think they’ll be in a bit of a panic. This is different than Kansas State.
“On the offensive line, Orlando Brown is pretty good. There’s no one on that line where you can say: ‘We’re going to exploit the [heck] out of that guy.’ They’re solid. No one panics. But the whole key here is Mayfield, that [little rascal] just keeps making everyone miss. He keeps moving his feet and then fires a piss rocket 25 yards down the field. Arguably, that’s the best portion of their offense. You end up being a lot less apt to bring pressure because he just keeps sliding out of it.
“It will be interesting to see how they match up with a more physical team. I think Mark Andrews, their stud tight end, is a little bit soft. Go watch tape. He’s huge [6-foot-5 and 254 pounds] and hasn’t blocked anyone this year.
“Oklahoma only has like two run plays – counter and a wide zone. I’d think they are going to put everyone possible in the box and it’ll be interesting to see if CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown can stretch the field. But this whole game is going to be about Mayfield and how Georgia reacts to him scrambling. He never drops back to pass. That’s hurt him in the [NFL] draft process. But it works here. They run play-action, bubbles and smoke behind the line of scrimmage. But the hardest part is how to react when protection breaks down. Watch. Out.”
No. 3 GEORGIA
“The biggest thing with Georgia, and the biggest difference since Kirby Smart took over there, is just how hard they play. That’s not a little thing, it’s a huge thing. And along with playing a lot harder, they are also playing a lot faster. That’s a hard combination. And they are playing a lot harder this year than last year. And much harder than the year before that, which means he has the whole culture of the program heading in the right direction.
“Defensively, they are talented but it seems as if the sum is better than their parts. They have good players and good speed, but they’re not all that big for an SEC team. But they’re very athletic and can run sideline-to-sideline.
“Everything starts defensively with Roquan Smith. He’s one of the best linebackers we saw in the SEC this year. He can really run and make plays. He looked fast on film, but when I saw him live I was still shocked at how fast he was. He was back-dooring some zone runs and counter plays, it was stunning. Up front, no one stands out, but they do a really nice job rotating six or seven guys up front.
“The big question in this game will be the quarterback, Jake Fromm. They really haven’t asked him to do that much, which is smart because he’s a freshman. He’s out of the old game manager mold, which makes sense considering how they’ve been built. He’s only throwing the ball 17 times per game, but he’s been very consistent in doing what he’s doing.
“Georgia’s strength is that they’re going to beat you methodically. The combination of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will slowly wear you out. They are both excellent backs. They’re going to rely on them to win this game. When they got beat by Auburn the first time, they couldn’t run the ball. In the SEC title game, they did a better job putting the quarterback in position to make plays with out routes and stick routes that he can complete. And that allows them to get the run game going.”