College Sports

Orange Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal set: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of the Alabama Crimson Tide holds the trophy while celebrating with his team after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime to win the CFP National Championship last season. Tagovailoa sustained a sprained ankle Saturday night against Georgia, but he’ll be with the Tide on Dec. 29 when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of the Alabama Crimson Tide holds the trophy while celebrating with his team after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime to win the CFP National Championship last season. Tagovailoa sustained a sprained ankle Saturday night against Georgia, but he’ll be with the Tide on Dec. 29 when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal. Getty Images

If high-scoring, college football shootouts get you pumped, you’ll love the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl.

The top two scoring offenses in the nation will clash at Hard Rock Stadium when No. 1 Alabama (13-0, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) meets No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1, 9-1 Big 12) on Saturday, Dec. 29.

Kickoff time for the game will be 8 p.m.

“We are excited to play host to this matchup between the two highest scoring teams in the country,’’ said Orange Bowl Committee chief executive officer Eric Poms.

In the other CFP semifinal, No. 2 Clemson (13-0) will face No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) at 4 p.m. Dec. 29 in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Big 12 champion Oklahoma, whose only loss came to Texas (48-45) on Oct. 6, leads the nation in scoring, averaging 50.3 points a game. Defending national champion Alabama is No. 2, with 49 points a game.

“They’re a pretty dynamic group,’’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said of the Sooners to ESPN host Rece Davis on the CFP announcement show Sunday. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. They make a lot of explosive plays.”

Said Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley of Alabama: “They’re a great team. That’s pretty obvious. They’ve had a great run, an historic run, in college football over the last several years with Coach Saban. We’ll be looking forward to the challenge. That’s what these games should be like —different champions from all over the country, great programs that have such strong histories going against each other.”

Each of the teams has big-time quarterbacks who are Heisman Trophy candidates. Alabama starter Tua Tagovaiola, who sustained a high-ankle sprain Saturday in the Crimson Tide’s SEC Championship victory against Georgia, was replaced by former Alabama starter Jalen Hurts with about 11 minutes left in the game. Hurt went on to lead the Tide to two touchdowns, including his 15-yard winning sprint into the end zone with 1:04 left.

Saban said Sunday that he hoped Tagovaiola would be back in about two weeks — though high-ankle sprains often take longer. Saban praised Hurts, who was replaced by Tagovaiola in last year’s championship game and subsequently lost his starting job.

“Well, it’s really kind of unprecedented in college football for a guy to go win 26 games and then not have a job anymore,’’ Saban said of Hurts. “He’s done so much for this program. He’s handled things with such high character and class in the way he supported his teammates this year. It was great to see him get an opportunity, even though Tua has been one of the best players in college football all year long.

“It was great for Jalen to take advantage of the moment and he did a fabulous job...’’

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has completed 241 of 340 passes (70.9 percent competed) for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. He has run for another 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Tagovaiola is 199 of 294 (67.7) for 3,353 yards and 37 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He has run for 190 yards and five touchdowns.

No one has been in a game hosted by the Orange Bowl more than Oklahoma. This will be the 21st time for Oklahoma, including once in the BCS National Championship vs. Florida in 2009. The Sooners lost that year.

Oklahoma’s last four appearances in the Orange Bowl have been in either a national championship or semifinal game.

In 2015, Oklahoma lost the College Football Playoff semifinal to Clemson at the Orange Bowl. In 2009 (2008 season), the Sooners had that loss to the Gators in the title game. In 2005 (2004 season), Oklahoma lost in the national championship to Southern Cal. And in 2001 (2000 season), the Sooners won the national title over Florida State.

The Sooners have been in eight national title games hosted by the OB.

Alabama has been to the Orange Bowl nine previous times. in 2013, the Crimson Tide defeated Notre Dame for the national title following the 2012 regular season. Alabama is 5-4 in games hosted by the OB.

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