No. 2 Clemson Tigers (13-1 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0 SU, 10-4 ATS)
College Football Playoff National Championship Game
Date/Time: Monday January 9th, 2017. 8:00PM (EST)
Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLEM +7/ALA -7
Over/Under Total: 51
The College Football Playoff National Championship Game will feature a rematch of last years title game when the no. 2 Clemson Tigers square off with the no. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide inside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Last year the Crimson Tide outdueled Clemson in a thrilling 45-40 CFP Championship Game to give Nick Saban his 4th National Championship in the last 7 years. Since then Alabama has remained atop college footballs pinnacle with an undefeated 14-0 SU record on the season and on the wave of a 26 game winning streak. Once again Alabama will be favored this Monday as they look to make another claim at the ultimate prize in college football.
However, Clemson returns to CFP National Championship Game with some unfinished business after demolishing no. 3 Ohio State 31-0 in the Semifinal Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers have been playing tremendous on both sides of the football and they proved last year that they can go toe to toe with Alabama. In fact, I would say that Clemson is playing better now than they were last year before they gave Alabama all they could handle in the CFP Championship Game. I believe most people are familiar with Clemsons offense but their defense has been truly inspiring in their most recent outings. The Tigers defensive line completely dominated Ohio State in the trenches last week as they held one of the nations best offenses to just 215 total yards.
Before that game, Ohio State had averaged 245 yards per game on the ground as the 12th best rushing attack in the country. Instead Clemsons athletic defense overpowered and was too quick on the edges which overwhelmed the Buckeyes offense to just 88 yards on the ground. Clemsons defensive line has had a several impressive performances this year but their performance against Ohio State was by far the best to date. If they can somehow match that intensity, they are going to make things extremely difficult for an Alabama offense that relies heavily on the run.
In last weeks Peach Bowl Semifinal win over Washington, Alabama ran wild against a talented Huskies defense. With quarterback Jalen Hurts struggling, running back Bo Scarbrough exploded for 180 yards on 19 carries for two touchdowns. Hurts added another 50 yards on the ground as Alabama racked up 269 yards on the ground as a team. It was the first time nearly all season that Alabama was basically unable to do anything in the passing game and there were some concerns with the play calling from former Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffen. As most are aware, Kiffen was originally scheduled to remain on the staff throughout the playoffs before taking over the head coaching job at FAU. However, Alabama let Kiffen go shortly after last weeks win for unknown reasons.
Stepping into the offensive coordinator role for the title affair will be Steve Sarkisian the former USC Head Coach. Sarkisian spent the year as an offensive analyst for Alabama but will step into his new role following the release of Kiffen. Obviously the timing of the coaching switch is not ideal for Alabama and one can only guess the true reasons behind the move. However, it remains to be seen whether it will have any impacts against Clemson on Monday. If I had to guess, I would not expect any identifiable changes as Saban typically has control of how this offense performs anyway.
Rest assured Alabama will test Clemsons toughness through their physical running attack. Scarbrough ran like a man possessed last week and he has really come along in the last few games. Additionally running back Damien Harris, who led the team for most of the year, is a 1,000 yard rusher that will handle the secondary work. For Alabama to repeat, they need quarterback Jalen Hurts to have a strong bounce back game. Hurts completed just 7 of 14 passing against Washington for 57 yards. While some of that can be contributed to game script, Alabama needs Hurts to have a great performance against a Clemson offense that can score a lot of points and his dual threat style is something that Clemsons defense has struggled against this year.
Speaking of Clemsons offense, the Tigers are absolutely loaded with weapons. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the country. WR Mike Williams is the best receiver in the college football and the entire receiving corps is overlaid with talent. Additionally, running back Wayne Gallman is an effective runner with big play potential. The majority of this Clemson offense is the exact same group that posted 40 points on Alabama last year and they are capable of putting the significant pressure on the Crimson Tide defense yet again Monday night.
However, it would be unfair to compare this Alabama defense to last years group. The Crimson Tide defense has been nothing short of incredible this year. Alabama ranks 1st in total defense (244ypg), 1st against the run (62ypg), 1st in defensive touchdowns (11), 1st in 4th down defense, and the list goes on. There have been many comments that suggest this Alabama defense is the best ever under Nick Saban and perhaps the best Alabama defense ever. I for one cannot disagree with those arguments as a follower of this team for the entire year. Whether you agree or disagree, is irrevelant. Either way Alabama has not given up more than 14 points since the first week in October. If you add in the fact that Deshaun Watson has struggled with turnovers this season, it is not inconceivable that Alabama could have another dominate performance against this Clemson team even if it does appear that the Tigers have a ton of momentum heading into Monday night.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I love the under for this game. Both defenses are playing really well and I dont think this game carries the big play potential that we saw from both sides last year. The under is a strong bet. I would also put my money on Clemson on the side. I think this game is a true 50/50 split in terms of winning percentage. Clemson has the confidence to go toe to toe with Alabama and I think they have the better momentum going into this game as well. The points are just extra. Take Clemson +7 and the under 51!
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