The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers are set for a rematch of last year’s National Championship Game. The Crimson Tide prevailed 45-40 in an absolute shootout as 6-point favorites last season, barely failing to cover the number after the Tigers scored a late touchdown.
Alabama (14-0) is trying to become perhaps the best team in college football history with one more victory after topping Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl. Nick Saban would tie Paul Bear Bryant with the most national championships in college football history with his sixth if the Crimson Tide were to prevail.
Clemson (13-1) will get another shot at knocking off the Crimson Tide after a convincing 31-0 shutout victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers will need another dominant performance from the defense to have a chance, and for Deshaun Watson to cut down on the turnovers as he has thrown 30 interceptions in 29 games over the past two seasons.
Kickoff inside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is set for 8:00 EST Monday night with ESPN providing the television coverage. Taking a look at the college football lines, I find Alabama as a 7-point favorite over Clemson with a total set of 51 points.
Clemson survived some scares early on in the season, and I think the 42-43 loss to Pitt awoke this team. The Tigers have gone on to win their last four games in dominant fashion with a 22-point win at Wake Forest, a 49-point win over rival South Carolina, a 42-35 victory over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship and that 31-0 shutout of Urban Meyer and Ohio State last week. And that game against VA Tech was a 21-point game until the Hokies tacked on a few touchdowns in garbage time with the game basically decided.
Dabo Swinney is now 5-1 SU & and a perfect 6-0 ATS in his last six bowl games. All six have come in the role of the underdog. Clemson beat LSU and Les Miles 25-24 in 2012, Meyer and Ohio State 40-35 in 2013, blew out Oklahoma and Bob Stoops twice 40-6 and 37-17 in 2014 and ’15, respectively, and gave Alabama and Nick Saban a run for its money in a 40-45 loss in the Championship Game last year. Then they beat Meyer and Ohio State again by 31 points last week.
Now the Tigers find themselves in the role of the dog again this week and looking for revenge from that loss to Alabama last year. You could certainly argue that the Tigers outplayed the Crimson Tide in that contest and should have won. They outgained them by 77 yards and racked up 550 total yards in the loss. Deshaun Watson had himself a day, throwing for 405 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception, while also rushing for 73 yards.
Dabo Swinney is now 5-1 SU & and a perfect 6-0 ATS in his last six bowl games. All six have come in the role of the underdog.
Alabama hasn’t faced an offense as explosive as this Clemson outfit. The Tigers are putting up 39.5 points, 502.1 yards per game and 6.3 yards per play this season. And the defense continues to be one of the most underrated in the country, giving up only 17.1 points, 306.9 yards per game and 4.6 per play. This will be by far Alabama’s toughest test of the season.
I think there has been a big distraction with Lane Kiffin that could hurt the Crimson Tide here. He was let go after the win over Washington, and now Steve Sarkisian will be replacing him. There could be some chemistry issues there with Sarkisian and QB Jalen Hurts. And Hurts played his worst game of the season against Washington, completing only 7-of-14 passes for 57 yards, while also rushing for only 50 yards on 19 carries. They won in spite of him, thanks in large part to another defensive touchdown, which was their 11th of the season.
Clemson is 8-1 ATS vs. excellent teams who outscore opponents by 17-plus points per game on the season over the last two seasons. The Tigers are 31-14 ATS in their last 45 games as underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points. Swinney is 8-0 ATS in road games vs. good defensive teams that allow 17 or fewer points per game as the coach of Clemson. Swinney is 10-1 ATS in road games vs. good rushing defenses that allow 3.25 or fewer yards per play as the coach of Clemson.