Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson O/U Pick
Clemson Tigers (14-0 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0 SU, 8-6 ATS)
When: Monday, January 7, 2019, at 7 PM ET
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Total: O/U 59.5
Last Time Out: Clemson throttled Notre Dame 30-3; Alabama bested Oklahoma 45-34
When Clemson Has the Ball:
Clemson relies on a strong ground game powered by Travis Etienne and accurate passing from Trevor Lawrence to make its offense run. Etienne hasn’t always had to do a lot because the Tigers have knocked so many teams out of the game early, leading him to an early shower as his backups take over for him. Even so, he’s managed to top 1,500 yards and has averaged over eight yards a carry because of how strong Clemson has been in the trenches. When Etienne doesn’t touch the ball, it’s likely to go to receivers Tee Higgins or Amari Rodgers, although when the Tigers look for the big play, Justyn Ross is likely the man they look for, as he torched Notre Dame for 148 yards in the semifinals.
When Alabama Has the Ball:
The Crimson Tide have traditionally been a defense-first team, but not this season. This season, Tua Tagovailoa has thrown the ball around like he’s not facing a defense at all, completing two-thirds of his passes for 3,353 yards and 37 touchdowns. He’s been so effective that Alabama hasn’t really had to run the ball that much this year, and when the Tide do run it, they spread it out among several backs. Josh Jacobs did most of the damage on the ground against Oklahoma, but Alabama will go with whoever gets the job done, whether it’s him, Damien Harris or someone else.
California, here we come? Not quite. Two significant issues could affect these high-flying offenses, based on where the game is being played. First, there’s the weather. Alabama and Clemson are both warm-weather teams, and neither is used to playing in the mid-40s, as it’s projected to be at kickoff. Both sides could find themselves neutralized by the relatively chilly temperatures that they’ve not seen all season.
Second, there’s the turf. Levi’s Stadium has gained a reputation for being one of the worst stadiums in the NFL during San Francisco 49ers games, and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that the surface was similar to what his team faced in notoriously rainy London. That could be the case again because it’s scheduled to rain for two days prior to this contest. A slick surface will be difficult for these teams to overcome.
The Over Will Hit if:
The Tigers can take an early lead and force the Crimson Tide to favor the air. Alabama will likely plan to pass first anyway, given that the Tide average 325 yards per game and the Clemson defense’s biggest weakness is the pass. But it’s critical that Clemson gets off to a good start for the over to hit because if the Tigers fall behind early, Alabama has the ability to control the line of scrimmage and control the clock. Should that be the case, the Tide will likely elect to take that opportunity, especially if the field becomes a quagmire. Conversely, a good start for Clemson means that Alabama will have to stick with its passing attack to try to pick up points, making it likely that the teams engage in a scoring contest.
The Under Will Hit if:
The Crimson Tide can control the line of scrimmage and force Trevor Lawrence to beat them. Lawrence is an outstanding quarterback, without question, but he’s also a freshman playing in the biggest game of his life on the biggest stage. He hasn’t faced a defense like Alabama’s all season, and this could be a challenge that he’s not ready to meet. If that’s the case, there’s little chance that Clemson will score enough points to reach the over.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
These two offenses have been completely unstoppable all season, which suggests that the 59.5 total might be a little low. But by the same token, neither has seen a defense as talented as the other one at any point this season. Alabama hasn’t faced a run defense like Clemson, and Trevor Lawrence hasn’t seen the kind of pass defenses that Alabama boasts. This is purely a case of strength on strength, and in that kind of situation, especially in a championship game, it’s tough to guess whether it’s going to lead to the teams playing cautious or opening the playbook.
In this case, I’m planning to take the over because I think Alabama is going to be able to throw the ball on Clemson and establish a lead early in the second half. By that point, though, I think both teams will have scored a few blows and put the total within reach. At that point, it’ll become a battle of desperation, which leads to extra chances taken and blown assignments that result in points. The field is a scary proposition, however, so be sure to check the weather one final time before placing your bet. But if the field is properly covered and the surface is dry enough for the teams to shine, I’m guessing that they will and taking the over.