No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. No. 1 Clemson Tigers (12-1 SU, 8-4-1 ATS)
AllState Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal
Date/Time: Monday January 1st, 2018. 8:45PM (EST)
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome New Orleans, L.A.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ALA -2.5/CLEM +2.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5
The last two College Football Playoff National Championship Games have featured the same two premier programs in college football between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers. Two years ago, Alabama held off Clemson in an exciting 45-40 title game that featured Kenyon Drakes 95 yard kickoff return for a touchdown that sealed the Crimson Tides 4th National Championship under Nick Saban. In last years sequel, Clemson rallied from behind as quarterback Deshaun Watson hit Hunter Renfrow for a game winning touchdown with just 6 seconds remaining to extract revenge in route to the Tigers first National Championship in more than 35 years.
Now the stage is set for the trilogy as the 4th ranked Crimson Tide meet the top ranked Clemson Tigers for the opportunity to get back to the National Championship Game in the AllState Sugar Bowl. The Tigers earned the top spot by virtue of a 12-1 SU season that was capped off by a dominant performance in the ACC Championship Game where they obliterated no. 7 Miami 38-3. Meanwhile Alabamas path to the College Football Semifinal was embraced with more controversy. The Crimson Tide lost their last game of the regular season in the Iron Bowl to Auburn.
The loss also kept Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game which was the subject towards a lot of controversy as fans and mainstream media lobbied for Ohio State to be the 4th team elected in the playoffs despite two losses because they earned the Big Ten Championship. Luckily, the playoff committee made the correct selection and held Ohio State responsible for the two losses despite the conference championship in similar circumstances that kept Penn State out of the playoffs last year. As a result, Alabama earned the 4th seed which graces us with this incredible trilogy among the two teams that have dominated college football over the last several years.
While the drama surrounding the playoffs unfolded in Alabamas favor, I am not sure if I can say the same about their matchup with Clemson. The Tigers are playing the best football in the country and the Tigers also matchup extremely well against the Crimson Tide. I have been critical of Alabamas at times this season. The Crimson Tide offense has run the ball very well as they always do under Nick Saban. Running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough are proven quality rushers that have combined for more than 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has also been very dangerous on the ground with more than 750 yards and 8 touchdowns.
However, I am still critical of this offenses big play capability. Hurts has been solid statistically throwing the football with 15 touchdowns and just 1 interception. WR Calvin Ridley is probably one of the most under rated receivers in the SEC. Yet for whatever reason, this offense has had few big plays down the field in the passing game. My concern for Alabama is quite simple. Clemsons defensive line is flat out incredible. They defend the run really well and they get excellent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. We have witnessed Clemsons defense completely disrupt opposing offenses and I just dont believe Alabama has the big play potential or the balance to keep Clemsons defense on their heels.
Now I also do not want to under estimate Alabamas defensive potential. The Crimson Tide have an excellent defense that is capable of generating turnovers and making things very tough for Clemson. However, I simply believe the Tigers have shown enough talent and creative play call to stretch this Crimson Tide defense. Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant is very talented and has grown into a bigger passing threat as the season has progressed. Emerging running back Travis Etienne gives this offense a homerun threat out of the backfield which gives Alabama plenty to worry about. If Bryant can keep from turning the ball over and avoid any big game blunders, Clemsons offense has enough weapons to create scoring opportunities.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Clemson +2.5. Bet your pick for this game using your credit card at an online bookie where it WILL work for deposits and where you’ll receive a generous 50% signup bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $250! (Example: Deposit $250 and they’ll give you an extra $250 FREE!) Find this great offer at Bovada Sportsbook.