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College football playoffs - Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl

The first round of the college football playoffs

Capital One Orange Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The first round of the 2018-2019 College Football Playoffs is here!

It was a foregone conclusion that Alabama would be one of the teams playing today. The other three teams, however, had fraught paths which lead them to their final rankings. For much of the year it was assumed that some combination of Georgia, Ohio State, and Michigan would be among the playoff teams, but they all wound up falling just short. Joining Alabama today are the Clemson Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Considering these games feature the top four ranked teams in the nation, this evening is sure to be rich with scouting opportunities for April’s draft. There is the distinct possibility that we will be watching future New York Giants in these games.

Cotton Bowl - Clemson vs. Notre Dame

ESPN - 4 p.m.

The story of this game might be the players not on the field. Clemson had three players suspended after testing positive for a banned substance — a suspension which as since been upheld after the B-sample came back positive as well. Among those players is defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who might be the best nose tackle in the draft and has been the rock in the middle of Clemson’s talented defensive line.

But even without Lawrence, EDGE Clellin Ferrell and DT Christian Wilkins will likely give Notre Dame fits.

Of course, Notre Dame boasts a talented squad of their own, including DT Jerry Tillery and CB Julian Love. And if you aren’t happy about Romeo Okwara being cut only to have a break-out season for the Detroit Lions, keep an eye on Julian Okwara, Notre Dame’s 6’4”, 240 pound EDGE. The younger Okwara brother is only a red-shirt sophomore, but he has submitted his name to the Advisory Committee for a draft grade.

(Their parents named them Romeo and Julian? Just... Wow.)

Players to watch


  • Clellin Ferrell (EDGE)
  • Christian Wilkins (DT)
  • Trayvon Mullen (CB)
  • Kendall Joseph (LB)
  • Mitch Hyatt (OT)

Notre Dame

  • Jerry Tillery (DT)
  • Julian Okwara (EDGE)
  • Te’Von Coney (LB)
  • Julian Love (CB)
  • Alohi Gilman (S)

Orange Bowl - Alabama vs. Oklahoma

ESPN - 8 p.m.

This game could wind up being the highlight of the season, and story lines abound.

Who will play quarterback for Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts? What will Kyler Murry do after this season? The fact that this game could pit the Heisman Trophy winner against the runner up should be a story all its own.

Will Oklahoma play defense? Can Alabama slow down Oklahoma’s playmakers and wide-open scheme?

From a draft perspective, this game is absolutely chock-full of prospects. In particular, keep an eye on Oklahoma RT Cody Ford. The 6’5”, 340 pounder isn’t just as big and powerful as those numbers suggest, but he has excellent feet as well — and a penchant for ending plays with defenders on the ground.

Players to watch


Quinnen Williams (DT)

Raekwon Davis (DT)

Anfernee Jennings (EDGE)

Mack Wilson (LB)

Deionte Thompson (S)

Jonah Williams (OT)

Ross Piersbacher (OG)

Irv Smith Jr (TE)


Cody Ford (OT)

Bobby Evans (OT)

Ben Powers (IOL)

Rodney Anderson (RB)

Marquise Brown (WR)