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Alabama, Oklahoma to meet in College Football Playoff semifinal at Orange Bowl

Nick Saban, Crimson Tide returning to South Florida for first time since 2013

Alabama head coach Nick Saban holds the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy while celebrating with his team after the Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime to win their fifth national title in nine years.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban holds the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy while celebrating with his team after the Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime to win their fifth national title in nine years. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – In four seasons of the College Football Playoff, Alabama has been a part of every one.

Not surprisingly, that won't be any different this season.

No. 1 Alabama (13-0) will face No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) at the CFP semifinal at the Orange Bowl for the right to play for the national championship in January. The game will be played Dec. 29 at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Crimson Tide defeated Georgia 35-28 on Saturday to win the Southeastern Conference championship, while the Sooners defeated Texas 39-27 to win the Big 12 Conference championship, avenging their lone regular-season loss.

Oklahoma leads the nation in scoring offense (50.3 points per game) and Alabama is second nationally (49 points per game). Led by Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray rank first and second in passing efficiency and are among the leaders in almost every passing category.

Alabama beat Georgia in overtime to win the national championship last season and has played in the CFP National Championship each of the last three seasons. Alabama has won five national titles since 2009, including three during the Bowl Championship Series era. 

The last time the Tide played in South Florida, Hard Rock Stadium had a different name and college football had a different system for selecting the nation's top teams. Alabama beat Notre Dame 42-14 in the penultimate BCS National Championship game Jan. 7, 2013.

South Florida will serve as a familiar setting for Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who spent two seasons at the helm of the NFL's Miami Dolphins before he left for Tuscaloosa in 2007.

"I didn't have a preference at all," Saban told reporters Sunday when asked if he had any input in where the Tide would play.

Several of Saban's former star players for the Tide have come from South Florida, including receivers Calvin Ridley (Monarch High School in Coconut Creek) and 2014 Biletnikoff Award winner Amari Cooper (Miami Northwestern Senior High School). Current Alabama star Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach High School) is the team's leading receiver with 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Oklahoma star receiver Marquise Brown (Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood) also hails from South Florida. Brown, who is the cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, was injured in the Big 12 title game, and his status for the Orange Bowl is uncertain.

This will be Oklahoma's second consecutive CFP berth and third in the last four seasons. The Sooners lost to Georgia in double overtime at the Rose Bowl semifinal last season.

The winner of the Orange Bowl will face the winner of the Cotton Bowl between No. 2 Clemson (13-0) and No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) in the Jan. 7 CFP National Championship at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Clemson beat Oklahoma 37-17 in the first playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl during the 2015 season. Oklahoma last won the national championship after beating Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, 2001.