ESPN's Howard Bryant Previews Saturday's College Football Semifinals NPR's Debbie Elliott speaks with ESPN's Howard Bryant about the college football playoffs that begin Saturday.
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ESPN's Howard Bryant Previews Saturday's College Football Semifinals

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ESPN's Howard Bryant Previews Saturday's College Football Semifinals

ESPN's Howard Bryant Previews Saturday's College Football Semifinals

ESPN's Howard Bryant Previews Saturday's College Football Semifinals

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NPR's Debbie Elliott speaks with ESPN's Howard Bryant about the college football playoffs that begin Saturday.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

And it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ELLIOTT: 'Tis the season for watching football. We've had a buffet of college football bowl games leading up to the NCAA playoffs today. The Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl will determine who'll be playing for the national championship on January 7. Helping us break it all down is Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and espn.com. Hi, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning. You mean you're not really excited - even more excited about the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl?

ELLIOTT: Nah.

BRYANT: That's not the one you want to talk about?

ELLIOTT: You know the one I want to talk about.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

ELLIOTT: Roll tide, baby. We've got two semifinal games, and we're going to start with what I think is the most important, of course, in Miami with the Orange Bowl. Later tonight, the Crimson Tide Alabama - No. 1 in the nation - set to clash with the Oklahoma Sooners. What do you think?

BRYANT: You sound like a super fan. This is like Scott Simon talking about the Cubs.

ELLIOTT: Oh, baby, it is.

BRYANT: You know, it all depends on how you feel about this. If you believe the hype, if you believe what you're told, neither one of these games is supposed to be close. I think that Oklahoma is a 14-point underdog, and Notre Dame is a 13-point underdog. And it's one of those things where you have a - you have two semifinals on paper that are not supposed to be close. I think that Notre Dame, the style that they play, their - they play relatively close games. They only average 33 points a game where the other three teams are averaging over 40. I think Oklahoma and Alabama are averaging almost 50 points a game. These are like college basketball scores. These teams are so offensively potent. And I think that what you really have as well - this is one of the - this is the first time in the five years of the bowl playoff that you've got three of the four teams being unbeaten. Only Oklahoma has one loss. They lost to Texas earlier this year in an upset at home. But I think that the real story here obviously is the match people want to see, which is another rematch between Clemson and Alabama. Alabama is the - they...

ELLIOTT: But Clemson has to beat Notre Dame. Alabama has to beat Oklahoma.

BRYANT: But Clemson has to beat Notre Dame, yes. And also you've got a battle of the quarterbacks with Oklahoma, of course, Kyler Murray, Heisman Trophy winner, and Tua Tagovailoa, who's - who maybe should have won the Heisman. This is going to be a great battle between them. Kyler Murray is going to be a really fun player to watch because he could be Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson. He was a first-round pick of the Oakland A's, so his best sport may be baseball. He's going to see a lot of athleticism in that game.

ELLIOTT: A lot of talent.

BRYANT: And I think that when you're really thinking about this game tonight with Oklahoma and Alabama, you're thinking about Nick Saban and you're thinking about this team. They - between Alabama and the UConn women's basketball team, I don't think there's another team in sports where the gap between that team and the field is greater. They've been in the playoff all five years. If they make it here again, this is going to be three years in a row, and they're just head and shoulders above everybody.

ELLIOTT: Making a dynasty.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Continuing a dynasty.

ELLIOTT: Really quickly, we only have about 30 seconds here, there's been a lot of talk about whether the playoff system is working. Where do you see that conversation going?

BRYANT: Well, I think it's done. I think that at some point you're going to expand it. I don't think four teams is going to be sufficient. Nick Saban said the other day he's not in favor of it. But then again, he wasn't in favor of the four-team playoff. In every sport, the more popular the games get, the more pressure there is to expand. Right now, they say it's not going to happen, but I guarantee within two or three years, you're going to see an eight-team playoff.

ELLIOTT: Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and espn.com, thanks for joining us.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

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