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Clemson junior Tee Higgins celebrates after scoring a touchdown during a home game against Charlotte on Sept. 21. Higgins is one of several talented receivers in this year's College Football Playoff, which starts with Saturday's national semifinals at the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. / AP photo by Richard Shiro

A flick of the wrist, a slight shift of the shoulder — and they're off.

Talented receivers are a big part of this year's College Football Playoff. Never before has the event that debuted in 2014 had four teams so prolific at scoring points, and it's largely due to a growing — think 6-foot or taller — list of game-breaking receivers keen on quick cuts, one-handed grabs and the ability to catch almost any pass thrown their way.

"Not always sure how we do it," said Clemson junior Tee Higgins, his team's leading receiver.

Neither is anyone else who has seen the impressive plays week after week by Higgins and the other receivers in the CFP who have become must-see TV:

* No. 1 LSU has a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, who have combined for 32 touchdowns this season.

* No. 2 Ohio State features K.J. Hill and Chris Olave, who have combined for 21 touchdown catches.

* No. 3 Clemson pairs Higgins with Justyn Hill, a 1-2 punch that has helped the reigning national champions win their past 28 games.

* No. 4 Oklahoma showcases CeeDee Lamb, who has averaged nearly 21 yards per reception and hauled in 14 touchdown catches.

It's the first time the four CFP participants enter the national semifinals averaging more than 43 points a game, which gives offense-crazed fans the promise of two potentially explosive showdowns Saturday. LSU (13-0) faces Oklahoma (12-1) in the Peach Bowl at 4 p.m., and Ohio State takes on Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl at 8, with the winners meeting Jan. 13 in New Orleans.

CBS Sports analyst Gary Danielson has seen the evolution of college football from big, physical, bruising backs getting 35 carries a game to teams relying more on lightning-fast, shifty receivers with sticky hands.

"There's no doubt things have changed," he said.

It was only four years ago LSU was a run-heavy team, with Leonard Fournette leading the charge and scoring 22 touchdowns on the ground — nine more than the Tigers' total for aerial scores for that 2015 season. This year, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow has the offense in air-raid mode with his school-record 48 touchdown passes.

Tigers coach Ed Orgeron acknowledged his defense has had to adjust sometimes to their fast-paced attack, which offers little rest for opponents or teammates.

"But we're not going to slow down," he said.

None of the four teams in the CFP are expected to do that — not with the pieces in place to blow opponents out.

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LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase celebrates a touchdown catch during a home game against Texas A&M on Nov. 30. Chase won this season's Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top college football receiver. / AP photo by Gerald Herbert

LSU's Chase won this season's Fred Biletnikoff Award as the game's top receiver, and his 18 touchdowns tied the Southeastern Conference's single-season mark.

"Ja'Marr is a special talent," Orgeron said. "Not only is he fast, but he's very strong.

"He loves to win the one-on-one matchup. He's physical. He works hard. He catches everything. He's got big hands, (is) a (good) route runner. I think he's a phenomenal player."

Chase said his route running has improved considerably this season, particularly because he has gotten better at creating separation early when defensive backs try to disrupt his pattern.

"Executing coming off the line most of the time has been a big difference from last year to this year," Chase said. "It's more about footwork and hand-eye coordination."

All of the talented receivers in the playoff have shown great skill. Perhaps the most talked-about play in Clemson's 62-17 destruction of Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game was Higgins' highlight-reel sideline grab as he reached out of bounds while keeping his toes in.

Said Higgins with a smile: "Every time I see that, I say, 'Man, I really caught that. It's crazy.'"

Ross, who had three touchdown catches in Clemson's 44-16 blowout of Alabama to win the national title last season, said teams can't put extra defenders on him due to the Tigers' depth of playmakers in a passing game triggered by sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Oklahoma's Lamb has been a nightmare for defenders, too, and Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said it's the junior's competitiveness that stands out.

Meanwhile, Ohio State's Hill already has surpassed David Boston's career mark for the program with 195 catches. A reception against Clemson will give him another Buckeyes record with a catch in 49 straight games.

"He's been clutch," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "Very, very productive."

He's not alone — and that could make for three entertaining games to determine the 2019 national champion.

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