by Aengus Moorehead
Crimson Tide: 13-1 SU,8-6 ATS
Tigers: 14-0 SU,7-7 ATS
When: 8:30 PM ET, Monday, January 11, 2016
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
The Alabama Crimson Tide will attempt to notch their fourth FBS Championship in the last seven years when they prepare to meet No. 1 Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Both teams breezed their way through the semifinals on New Year’s Eve. Clemson found themselves losing to Oklahoma at halftime of the Orange Bowl, but they quickly took the lead in the third quarter and shut out the Sooners in the second half of their 37-17 victory. After a slow start Alabama routed Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, 38-0.
Playing for national championships, recording double-digit victory totals and winning SEC titles has become the norm at Alabama under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide set the standard for the rest of college football, claiming at least 10 victories in each of the last eight seasons. Additionally, Alabama is 3-0 in national championship appearances under Saban and is the only team to claim back-to-back playoff appearances.
There were some struggles along the way for Clemson as they held on for dear life to beat Notre Dame, and struggling in the ACC championship against a North Carolina squad that got walloped by Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl but the Tigers kept on doing whatever it was they needed to do on the way to the unbeaten season, highlighted by a dominant second half effort to beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
The Crimson Tide has been favored in 80 of their past 81 games, including all three national championship game appearances under Saban. They’ve won all three of those titles. Clemson is 3-12 all-time against Alabama and has lost the past 12 meetings. It’s the Tigers’ worst record against any opponent they have played at least 10 times.
The nation’s top teams are led by two of the best individual players in college football. Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the 2015 Heisman Trophy, and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson finished third in the voting. Monday’s game could come down to which player has the better performance.
Jake Coker has been solid as Alabama’s quarterback, but Henry is the catalyst, accounting for 36.2 percent of the Crimson Tide's offensive production. Rushing for 2,061 yards and 25 touchdowns, Henry ran for over 200 yards on four occasions.
He faces a Clemson defense that ranks 23rd against the run, and the Tigers have done a good job when facing top running backs. Clemson held Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise to 50 yards on 15 carries, and limited North Carolina running back Elijah Hood to 65 yards on 14 carries in the ACC Championship Game.
Alabama’s defense is simply out of this world. It was pretty clear after it made former Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette (31 yards on 19 carries) look mortal during their matchup vs. LSU. It was pretty clear after it held eight of its next nine opponents following its lone loss to Ole Miss to 16 points or fewer. And it was made absolutely crystal clear after it shut out No. 3 Michigan State, 38-0, in the Cotton Bowl.
With their ability to make Clemson running back Wayne Gallman a virtual non-factor, the Tide can put wave after wave of pressure on Watson in the passing game. Alabama also has the talent in the secondary to hold up in coverage against Clemson’s limited receiving weapons while Watson attempts to scramble. Alabama held opposing QBs to a 99.5 passer rating, good for fourth in the nation.
Watson does it all for Clemson however. Throwing for 3,699 yards and rushing for another 1,032 yards, he totaled 43 scores in 2015. The sophomore has come up big for the Tigers when they’ve needed it most, totaling more than 400 yards in the ACC title game and rushing for a season-high 145 yards in the Orange Bowl. Alabama hasn’t faced a quarterback with the skillset of Watson this season, and he’s had terrific games against top defenses like Boston College and Florida State.
If Alabama’s awesome defense has showed any weaknesses over the years, it’s against spread offenses with mobile quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel and Nick Marshall who can make plays with their legs, much like what Watson has done incredibly well during the tail-end of Clemson’s season. Through his last six games, Watson has averaged 107 rushing yards with eight total rushing touchdowns.
Gallman is among the nation’s best running backs, ranking 15th with 1,482 yards on the ground. Wide receiver Artavis Scott’s 89 receptions tie him for 14th in the country, and tight end Jordan Leggett could play a key role on Monday, having found his way into the end zone seven times. Leggett could be an important target against Alabama, who has allowed just 11 touchdowns in 25 red zone opportunities.
Bama’s bread and butter on offense should still be the ground game with Henry, who still had two touchdowns in the semifinal despite being limited to 75 yards on 20 carries. However, Bama’s ability to play with another dimension on offense could give the Tide the decided edge in the title game.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Clemson Tigers Early Odds & Betting Lines
Live College Football Playoff Game Odds & Scores - Click here
In their last action, Clemson was a 37-17 winner at home against Sooners. They covered the +3.5-point spread as underdogs, while the combined score (54) was profitable news for UNDER bettors.
Last time out for Alabama, they were a 38-0 winner as they battled Spartans at home. Alabama covered in the match as a -10.5-point favorite, while 38 combined points moved the game UNDER for totals bettors.
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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Clemson Tigers NCAAF Betting Odds & Trends
Current Streak: won 11 straight games.
Alabama is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games
Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Current Streak: won 14 straight games.
Clemson is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
Clemson is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Clemson's last 10 games
The Tigers aren’t likely to get much going on the ground against a stout Alabama defense so it will clearly be on Watson’s shoulders to muster most of the workload on offense.
Watson is a special player indeed but Coker has been phenomenal of late. Basically, this Alabama defense is so ridiculously good that I think it can neutralize the Clemson offense and force this game to be played at their pace.
Clemson’s defense could keep it close for a while, but Alabama should be able to pull away in the end. Take Alabama -6½ and the under 50½
Aengus CFP National Championship Prediction and Pick: Alabama -6½ at BetOnline
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alabama crimson tide - clemson tigers - deshaun watson - elijah hood - jake coker - nick saban - wayne gallman