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FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban leaves the field after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta. UCF’s Josh Heupel, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Saban are the finalists for The Associated Press national college football coach of the year after leading their teams to unbeaten regular seasons. The winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 17. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban leaves the field after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta. UCF’s Josh Heupel, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Saban are the finalists for The Associated Press national college football coach of the year after leading their teams to unbeaten regular seasons. The winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 17. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)|Associated Press
NCAAF

NCAAF: Mike Kern on Alabama vs. Oklahoma - Saturday, 8 pm

Semi-final 2 will air on ESPN and DTV 206

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

By the time the Alabama-Oklahoma game is getting ready to kickoff on Saturday from Miami, hopefully you will have already cashed your ticket on the first national semifinal. But if not, at least you’ll have another chance to maybe break even. Hey, it’s why casinos welcome your business.

Under Nick Saban, Bama has won five titles in the last nine years, which of course is impossible. And they also lost in the finals on the last play two years ago. But they don’t always win, and more to the point they don’t always cover. It just seems that way. Especially with this team. And the conventional wisdom seems to be that the Crimson Tide will eventually meet up with Clemson in the postseason for the fourth straight year.

But first, they have to get past Oklahoma, which some folks aren’t even sure should have been given the fourth seed in the field. The Sooners have the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (Kyler Murray), which historically hasn’t been such a great thing in these spots, while Bama has the runner-up (QB Tua Tagovailoa), who was supposedly the front runner until the final game. Maybe that factors in, maybe it doesn’t.

We do know this much: Alabama has buried most of its opponents early. Against Georgia in the SEC title game it had to come back from a 14-point second-half hole, much like it did in last year’s national championship. And it had to do so with its backup quarterback (Jalen Hurts), who of course would start for most teams and did start the last two years.

We also know this: Oklahoma can score 50 on just about anybody. Problem is, it can also give up like 40 against everyone too. Which means Alabama might be able to score in the 60s. So the question becomes, can Oklahoma match Bama score for score? Two years ago in the final, Clemson managed to do exactly that, and by the fourth quarter Bama’s defense was gassed. And it still almost hung on against Deshaun Watson, who was brilliant after somehow not winning the Heisman.

The play here might actually be the over, even though it’s almost 80. But I could see something like 52-42. Because once it gets going, if it does, there shouldn’t be many stops. For Oklahoma to have a chance it might have to play up-tempo and just try to wear Bama’s D down, if that’s possible. The Sooners are getting two touchdowns, which almost sounds like a sucker bet considering how good Bama can be. Yet when a team has the ability to go up and down the field like OU, 14 can be, well, a lot. And there’s always the chance of a late backdoor cover if it comes to that, because the Sooners aren’t going to stop coming. It’s what they do. They just might not be able to stop Bama from doing the same. Which is why they’re Bama.

The money line on the Sooners is + $450. Tempting, but it’s + $450 for a reason. As I said about the Clemson-Notre Dame matchup, if you’re taking the underdog it’s probably worth it just to put a little on the outright scenario, just in case.

Quick story: In 2000 at the national-title game between Oklahoma and Florida State, the Sooners were getting around 5 or 6 as I recall. I had to make a pick for the paper, so I asked five of my colleagues who they liked. Nobody picked OU. So I did, just to be different. And the Sooners wound up winning 13-2. Who knew? And everyone figured I was a genius, which of course is an aberration. But for a moment at least, I was the man. In print. I cherish the moment.