Welcome to bowl season, a prelude to the Alabama Invitational, better known as the College Football Playoff.
This is the fifth year of the four-team tournament for the national championship, and the Crimson Tide have been invited every year, winning two of the first four and getting to the title game each of the past three years.
1. A good idea would be an eight-team playoff — all five major conference champions, the top team in the Group of Five and two at-large teams.
2. The bowl season always will flourish and charm us, especially those of us who like to wager on the games. These final games are wonderful rewards for the many student-athletes who never will get closer to an NFL experience than the ticket window.
For me, the bowl season always begins right at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State vs. Arizona State
12:30 p.m. Saturday, KTNV-13
Line: Fresno State -6; total 53½
Jeff Tedford has done a superb job molding Fresno State into one of the Mountain West’s best teams. But I think Herm Edwards is the coach of the year in the Pac-12. Few thought he belonged as coach of a college team, including me. But he proved us wrong and restored the pride at Arizona State. The Sun Devils finished the season with four wins in their final five games, including victories at Southern California and at Arizona, where they trailed by 19 points entering the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils enjoy coming here for a bowl game, and that’s not always the case with the Pac-12. Beware of Herm and his Devils. It should be a terrific opener to the bowl season. Arizona State 31, Fresno State 30.
Looking ahead to the national semifinals, we don’t have to put up with them on New Year’s Eve — a horrible idea best left in the past. This year, the College Football Playoff committee did us a favor and picked a traditional Saturday for the games.
Clemson vs. Notre Dame
1 p.m. Dec. 29, ESPN
Line: Clemson -12½; total 55
If it wasn’t for St. Nick at Alabama, we would be raving about the job Dabo Swinney has done at Clemson. The Tigers have been overshadowed by the Crimson Tide, but they are a playoff perennial, getting there four consecutive years. Tigers freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence is spectacular, but running back Travis Etienne will carry the load against the Fighting Irish. Kudos to Notre Dame for keeping Brian Kelly after he went 4-8 in 2016. Now Kelly has Notre Dame in the championship discussion. But it looks to me like the undefeated season will end here. Clemson 27, Notre Dame 10.
Oklahoma vs. Alabama
5 p.m. Dec. 29, ESPN
Line: Alabama -14; total 81
A Heisman Trophy isn’t always a handicapper’s tool, but this year might be the exception. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa finished 1-2 in the voting. The Crimson Tide’s defense doesn’t need added motivation, but after the Heisman decision, several of Tagovailoa’s teammates tweeted out their desire to prove the voters wrong. Talking about shutting down Murray’s considerable talents and then doing it are two entirely different tasks, but coach Nick Saban knows his players won’t lose focus preparing to stop the Sooners. There are huge differences between these two defenses. The Sooners have given up 53 touchdowns and the Tide 25. It works out to 32 points against Oklahoma per game and 15 against Alabama. Alabama 38, Oklahoma 21.
Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His show on the Vegas Stats & Information Network can be heard on SiriusXM 204 and livestreamed at reviewjournal.com/vegas-stats-information-network.