It’s CFP Semifinal weekend, and everyone’s leaning toward ‘Bama. Including sports books, which are countering the action by driving the money line and the spread in Nick Saban’s direction.
But Clemson’s offense wore out and embarrassed the Crimson Tide in last year’s Final. And Alabama just lost to Auburn, while the Tigers were killing Miami by 35 points. Are we seeing things?
Before this turns into a Clemson pep rally, remember going against the grain isn’t always as effective as it is sexy. Alabama has an excellent chance to beat Clemson in the Semifinal on Monday night. The handicapper’s job is to forsee which of many likely scenarios are most likely to happen.
Perhaps the quarterbacks are the real focus of the popular early lean. 2 quarterbacks starred in the 2017 CFP Final. One graduated to the NFL, and the other’s name is Jalen Hurts.
The Tide could be slightly healthier. Clemson is missing a kicker and a number of role-players on defense. Alabama’s major point of concern is the defensive backfield. But if ‘Bama gets ‘Bama-style penetration up front, plays will finish at, behind or near the LOS and not between Saban’s safeties.
Clemson QB Kelly Bryant does not possess the dual-threat ability of Deshaun Watson. His counterpart will put enough points on the board to earn a win if the Alabama defense dominates. But the Tide’s pass rush faltered weeks against Mississippi State and allowed Jarrett Stidham pass his way to an Iron Bowl upset for Auburn. It’s not the 2016 Alabama defense we’re talking about.
Clemson has not been bothered since almost 2 months ago, when they rushed for 200+ yards and beat ranked NC State 38-31.
Dabo Swinney’s team has earned the right to be a favorite for this game. The Tiger defense is comparable to Alabama’s stat-wise and that’s after playing a tougher schedule. Bryant is clicking with Hunter Renfrow in big moments. The pieces are all there for another title, including an LB corps which has played well against quarterbacks with Hurts’ skill-set.
The moving point spread has created value in an underdog. Clemson has an above-50% chance to win this contest SU and that makes the Tigers an excellent bet against the point spread.