College Football Playoff 2018-19: Who’s playing, start times, how to watch and more

You don’t need to wait until New Year’s Day to watch the biggest bowl games that college football has to offer. The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl games double as the semifinals for the College Football Playoff this year and will be played on Saturday. The winners of the semifinal games will then meet in the National Championship game on Monday, Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

College Football Playoff 2018-19

Game schedule:

Game Date Time (ET) Network
Cotton Bowl: Clemson vs. Notre Dame Saturday, Dec. 29 4 p.m. ESPN
Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma Saturday, Dec. 29 8 p.m. ESPN
National Championship Monday, Jan. 7 8 p.m. ESPN

Cotton Bowl semifinal

No. 2 Clemson (-12) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame — 4 p.m. on ESPN: Thinking that Notre Dame is in over its head with this playoff berth has become fashionable in the college football world, but the Irish have been one of the best all-around teams in the country all season long, and this spread is more a reflection of public perception than reality. Notre Dame’s offense struggled against Michigan, the only defense its played of this caliber, but that was with a different quarterback and without its best running back. Also, Notre Dame’s defense is good enough to keep Trevor Lawrence and company in check. I think Clemson wins, just not easily. Clemson 30, Notre Dame 23 — Tom Fornelli

Orange Bowl semifinal

No. 1 Alabama (-14) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma — 8 p.m. on ESPN: I’ve been a fan of the possibility of this matchup for some time. You simply don’t beat this Alabama juggernaut with defense; you have to score points — at least 30 to have a puncher’s chance. Who better to challenge, then, than the No. 1 offense? The Sooners can hold their own, but the question is for how long if the defense is a liability? Plus, the leg injury to receiver Marquise Brown will be a factor, though he is expected to play. Alabama was uncharacteristically pushed around in the trenches in the SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia, and I expect the Tide to rectify that. Plus, with Tua Tagovailoa healthy again, Alabama should be firing on all cylinders. Still, two touchdowns is a lot. Alabama 48, Oklahoma 40 — Ben Kercheval