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Is Oklahoma better than Clemson?

The Oklahoma Sooners are in the College Football Playoff, and might just be the most dangerous team in the four-school lot. Oklahoma looked on life support back in the fall when it lost a shocker to the Texas Longhorns, a team that could barely manage a first down throughout most of the campaign.

Yet the Sooners rebounded, scoring wins against the Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs and Oklahoma State Cowboys. Those victories vaulted Oklahoma into the Big 12 championship and subsequently, into the fourth and final seed of the College Football Playoff.

When they take the field on New Year’s Eve against the top-seeded and undefeated Clemson Tigers, they will be the favorite in the opinion of most of the national media. Oklahoma is an institution in the college football world, including since Bob Stoops took over and kept the program rolling. Stoops has already been to the National Championship game and it would surprise nobody if he hands Clemson its first loss and makes it there once more. The only difference is this time, he would have Baker Mayfield at quarterback, not Jason White.

Clemson does pose some significant issue. The Tigers have a Heisman Trophy hopeful in quarterback Deshaun Watson, who can both beat you in the air and on the ground. Oklahoma will have to be sound in its defensive techniques. Bottling up Watson’s running abilities will be the key to halting Clemson, even with the threat of running back Wayne Gallman, who amassed 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry.

On offense, the Sooners should have nothing short of a field day. The Tigers have really struggled down the stretch defensively, allowing more than 30 points to the lowly Syracuse Orange and the North Carolina State Wolfpack, before surrendering 37 points against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC Championship game.

Playing against the Oklahoma offense might prove too great a test for Clemson. The aforementioned Mayfield was one of the best in the country throughout the year, throwing 35 touchdowns against only five interceptions. The Sooners also have a powerful combination in the backfield with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who combined to rush for more than 2,000 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

The receivers are also a problem for Clemson, although the Tigers do have a solid secondary. Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard is a premiere wide receiver in college, racking up 79 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns. Throughout the end of the season, Shepard had a major impact. The senior went for 183 yards against the Kansas Jayhawks on Oct. 31 before netting 14 catches and 177 yards versus Baylor on Nov. 14. The following week, Shepard has 111 yards against the Horned Frogs. He also has at least a touchdown in each of the past five games.

Ultimately, Clemson will need to slow down Oklahoma. It will be a rough task.

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