The teams are set and the rabid fan bases of each have all been involved in some fiery pre-game banter.

Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama are set for this year’s playoff which, on paper, appears to have the potential for some memorable, quality contests. With that in mind let’s break down the semifinal games, predict the winners and then declare a national champion.

Let’s start with Oklahoma and Georgia. This one has the makings of a high-scoring contest. The Sooners, led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, have had one of the most efficient offenses in 2017.

Likewise, Georgia has plenty of offensive weapons and will present Oklahoma with its toughest defensive challenge of the season. Often in matchups of this nature, good defense stops good offense. Oklahoma, however, is just too strong to be stopped completely. The question will be if Georgia can slow the Sooners down enough.

Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Georgia 31

Alabama and Clemson will meet in the other semifinal contest. The game is a rematch from last year’s national championship game in which the Tigers won in the final seconds.

While it is true the Crimson Tide may not be as dominant this season, Nick Saban’s team is still very good. Even with numerous injuries to several key players, Alabama has found a way to get back in the playoffs.

Clemson, other than its game with Syracuse, has looked very strong in 2017. The Tigers have shown they can defeat Alabama and knowing you can defeat a giant is often half the battle.

Alabama seems to be the overlooked team among the four in this year’s playoff. It’s never wise to underestimate the Tide, especially when Saban has weeks to prepare.

This game should be similar to last year’s contest. It will not be decided until late in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Alabama 20, Clemson 17

In the national title game, Oklahoma will face yet another top of the line SEC defense. While the Sooners will get by Georgia, being able to defeat Alabama will be another matter.

The Crimson Tide will be able to win this game in the trenches. Their pro-style offense, which simply lines up and overpowers opponents, should be able to handle Oklahoma and return to the top of the mountain in college football.

Prediction: Alabama 28, Oklahoma 17

•••

The FCS national title game also has an intriguing matchup between James Madison and North Dakota State.

These two teams met in the semifinals a year ago with James Madison ending the consecutive title streak for the NDSU Bison. It’s fitting they meet this season in the championship.

Both teams are very strong and crushed solid opponents in the semifinals. James Madison currently has the longest win streak in college football.

North Dakota State, however, is hungry to return to what it feels is its rightful position as national champion. Players have looked forward to this rematch for a year. Motivation is a powerful thing in college athletics.

Prediction: NDSU 31, James Madison 28

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor of the Barrow News-Journal. You can reach him at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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