College Football Playoff predictions: SN picks LSU, but who wins between Ohio State, Clemson? | Sporting News

The College Football Playoff semifinals are here.

No. 1 LSU (13-0) meets No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) in the Peach Bowl at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and No. 2 Ohio State (13-0) meets No. 3 Clemson (13-0) in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at 8 p.m. in the primetime matchup.

Peach Bowl | Fiesta Bowl

The winners advance to the College Football Playoff championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 13. With that in mind, Sporting News’ staff makes its predictions for Saturday’s semifinals:

LSU-Oklahoma picks

Bill Bender: LSU 41, Oklahoma 31

“Oklahoma is more than capable of winning a shootout here, knowing they have seen Georgia and Alabama the last two seasons. It’s just that LSU presents so many problems on the offensive side around a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Joe Burrow who is playing at the highest level. The Sooners have other factors working against them, too, like the worst turnover margin among the Playoff teams (minus-7) and the most penalty yardage of any Power 5 team. It’s hard to trust a team like that to win a game like this, especially with the suspension to defensive lineman — and sacks leader — Ronnie Perkins. Burrow and the Tigers take one more step to a national championship here.” — Bender

Zac Al-Khateeb: LSU 45, Oklahoma 31

“Oklahoma is in its element in what should be a shootout with LSU. Heisman runner-up Jalen Hurts also has experience against the Tigers, going 2-0 against them as a starter in 2016 and ’17. More importantly, the defense has greatly improved under first-year coordinator Alex Grinch. But the Sooners will be without several contributors, including starting safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (injury) and Perkins (suspension). That doesn’t bode well against LSU’s offense, which will be plenty potent — even if running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is unable to play — with Burrow and receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr.” — Al-Khateeb

Mike DeCourcy: LSU 42, Oklahoma 20

“The Sooners already were in for a long day the moment they were selected to enter the Playoff and installed as the No. 4 seed. Because whether it was the Tigers or Buckeyes they were to face in the No. 1-vs.-No. 4 matchup, OU was not going to be up to it. And then, as it prepared for this matchup, wound up suspending three players. The Sooners didn’t have enough to advance, and now they have less.” — DeCourcy

Vinnie Iyer: LSU 52, Oklahoma 38

“LSU’s offense won’t have any problems regardless of the injury to running back Edwards-Helaire as the Sooners will be without Ronnie Perkins to go after Burrow. Burrow and his receivers will make a ton of big plays downfield, while Hurts won’t be able to quite catch up, even with another (final) big game from CeeDee Lamb.” — Iyer

MORE: Picks for all 40 postseason games

Clemson-Ohio State picks

Bill Bender: Clemson 34, Ohio State 30

“These are almost identical teams in terms of what they do well, and it makes it a tough pick. This will be much closer than the last Fiesta Bowl semifinal, but the difference is still Trevor Lawrence. He was lights out in the College Football Playoff last season, and he has played as well as any quarterback in the second half of the season. Justin Fields can win this game, too, but we think Clemson makes a few more plays in the fourth quarter. That comes with the experience of being on this stage so much. Then again, I have been wrong on Ohio State-Alabama in 2014 and Ohio State-Clemson in 2016. Third time’s a charm?” — Bender

Zac Al-Khateeb: Clemson 35, Ohio State 31

“Clemson has yet to be tested all season, and you could hardly pick a worse team than Ohio State as the first real challenge these Tigers face. Fields’ dual-threat ability — coupled with the tremendous ability of running back J.K. Dobbins and receivers Chris Olave and K.J. Hill — could spell trouble for a talented Clemson defense led by SN All-American Isaiah Simmons. But Clemson is still a supremely talented team, and coach Dabo Swinney will have his players playing with a chip on their shoulder. Lawrence’s experience on this stage will be the difference in another fantastic entry for the Playoff.” — Al-Khateeb

Mike DeCourcy: Ohio State 31, Clemson 28

“To many in the public, Ohio State is not the team that won the first-ever College Football Playoff title, nor even the team that qualified for this one by defeating Wisconsin twice, Penn State and Michigan and ringing up an average scoring margin of 36.2 points. They’re simply the team that lost 31-0 to Clemson in the 2016 Playoff. That game, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with how this one will develop. Those Buckeyes weren’t these Buckeyes. And while these Tigers still have an amazing quarterback and a great squad, they have not been regularly tested and will find this OSU a much greater challenge than the group that showed up three years ago.” — DeCourcy

Vinnie Iyer: Clemson 34, Ohio State 27

“Lawrence’s experience of winning a national championship will be the difference-maker as Fields’ big-game inexperience showed a little in the first half of the Big Ten title game. Slow starts won’t cut it against Clemson, as Lawrence can cut through a tough defensive matchup with more from his explosive playmakers — Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Travis Etienne — than Fields gets from Dobbins, Olave and others. Look for Brent Venables to have a good game plan to contain Fields, and for Lawrence to be unfazed by Greg Mattison (obligatory Kirk Herbstreit-like coordinator name drop). Boom.” — Iyer

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