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Craven's Corner: Betting College Football Playoff semifinals; pivotal NFL games

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith celebrates following the Crimson Tide's 55-17 win over LSU on Dec. 5. Smith and the Crimson Tide take on Notre Dame in the College Football Playoffs semifinal Friday.

Touch this column and you are liable to get burnt. That’s how hot we are on Craven’s Corner. We’re burning through a cold December with a blistering 21-4 record. We posted an undefeated record for the second time in three weeks by winning on five NFL bets. Overall, our record is 67-43-3 for the season. 

This week, we'll place bets on the College Football Playoffs and four NFL games with playoff implications. 

College football

Alabama -20 vs. Notre Dame: The Crimson Tide are capable of scoring 50 points on any defense in the country. Alabama produced two Heisman Trophy finalists in 2020 with quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith. One of them will win the award. And that’s before we get to running back Najee Harris. The senior rushed for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns in 11 games. Notre Dame is in for a long afternoon. The Fighting Irish struggled in previous chances to topple national powers in big games. I expect Alabama to make another statement. 

Ohio State +7.5 vs. Clemson: Trevor Lawrence vs. Justin Fields. Amari Rodgers vs. Garrett Wilson. Ryan Day vs. Dabo Swinney. The Sugar Bowl will host a plethora of elite matchups when Ohio State takes on Clemson. Swinney provided Ohio State with some bulletin board material by ranking the Buckeyes 11th in his final coaches poll. A lot of people don’t think Ohio State should be in the playoffs because the Buckeyes only played six games. Don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes win this outright, but we’ll play it safe and take the points.  

NFL

Cowboys -2.5 vs. Giants: Somehow, the Dallas Cowboys possess an outside shot to win the NFC East. Dallas needs a win and for the Washington Football Team to lose to the Eagles. The Cowboys beat the Giants by three earlier in the season. They’ve currently won three in a row. New York is ready for the offseason and a loss improves the Giants’ draft position. Take the team with more on the line. 

Eagles +1.5 vs. Washington Football Team: Washington is limping to the end of the season, and just released one of its quarterbacks. Philadelphia doesn’t have anything to play for in terms of playoff implications, but quarterback Jalen Hurts wants to lock up the starting job in 2021. A solid performance to close out the season would give him the momentum needed to permanently unseat Carson Wentz. 

Dolphins +1 vs. Bills: Miami won four of its last five entering this contest between divisional rivals. The Bills are set to win the AFC East for the first time this century. Miami can reach the playoffs as a wildcard with a win. Buffalo is playing for seeding. A win and a Pittsburgh loss gives the Bills the second seed. Miami moved back to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the end of the last game in a gutsy decision that paid off. I believe that momentum carries Miami to another win and a playoff berth. 

Rams -1 vs. Cardinals: The Corner doesn’t believe in a team coached by Kliff Kingsbury. Reports suggest that Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a lower leg injury in the last game, and that he’ll be hampered if he starts. The winner essentially clinches a wild-card spot. Give me the Rams in a close one.

How to bet

A quick refresher: Betting looks difficult, but it’s easy to grasp. A negative number denotes the favorite. The number after the negative represents how much money you’d need to bet to win $100. So, a -265 favorite would require a $265 bet to win you $100. Conversely, a positive number is the underdog. The number following the positive represents how much money you’d make on a $100 bet. So, a +265 bet means $100 earns you $265.

As for point spreads, the team with the negative number is a favorite. For example, Oklahoma was a -2.5 point favorite over Texas in October. The Sooners needed to win by at least 3 points to cash. Texas needed to lose by 2.5 points or fewer.

We’re using BetMGM.com as our general sports book. Remember that lines fluctuate based on bets and are subject to change before kickoff.