Where to Watch: ESPN Tuesday 12:20 pm (AEDT)
After a whirlwind college football season, we’re now down to just 2 teams, Alabama and Clemson. Both of these sides have been excellent all season and find themselves undefeated through 14 games. They both come off convincing displays in the semi-finals, dispatching of Oklahoma and Notre Dame respectively, each by double digits. Having won 4 of the last 8 national championships, Alabama coach Nick Saban will be looking to cement his legacy with a victory here. Clemson have been a thorn in Saban’s side of late though, with some Deshaun Watson heroics pulling out the 2016 national title. In what is sure to be another exciting affair, let’s take a look at our best spread, total, and first touchdown scorer bets.
Alabama Crimson Tide
As most pundits predicted, Alabama continued their offensive dominance over Oklahoma last week. QB Tua Tagovailoa delivered another incredibly efficient display, completing 24/27 passes for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Alabama rushing attack continued their strong recent play, going over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. Josh Jacobs was the primary beneficiary of this, carrying the rock 15 times for 98 yards. Sophomore Receiver DeVonta Smith is one to watch in the passing game, going for 104 yards and a score last week.
Whilst they weren’t at their best defensively, this strong Crimson Tide defence did enough to contain an explosive Oklahoma offence. They particularly limited Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, holding him to just 19/37 passing. They did however allow him to rush for 109 yards on the ground, which they’ll need to tighten up here. Alabama boast a very impressive defensive front, with the trio of Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams, and Christian Miller combining for 25 sacks this year. Savion Smith is one to watch on the back-end, recording 3 interceptions, including a pick-six, this season.
Clemson were very impressive against Notre Dame last week, disposing of the Irish with a comfortable 30-3 score line. QB Trevor Lawrence was again outstanding, completing 27/39 passes for 327 yards and 3 scores. Receiver Justyn Ross was an excellent outlet for Lawrence, hauling in 6 grabs for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. The rushing attack also had another very strong day, going over 200 yards and a touchdown. This was led by star RB Travis Etienne, who had 14 carries for 109 yards and a score.
Defensively, you can’t give enough credit to Clemson for the excellent display they put on. Notre Dame QB Ian Book was having a tremendous season and they limited him to just 17/34 for 160 yards and a pick. The vaunted Notre Dame rushing attack was stopped in its tracks, totalling only 88 yards on 35 attempts. Defensive End Clelin Ferrell has emerges as a star up front for the Tigers, registering 10.5 sacks on the year. He is supported capably by Linebacker Kendall Joseph, who has 73 tackles and 4 sacks of his own. To pull off the upset here, Clemson’s defence will need a big day.
I’ve ridden Alabama for the majority of this season to pretty solid success. Although they didn’t cover last week, they were in control for damn near the whole game. Tua Tagovailoa is playing at a different level right now and gives the Tide the best QB they’ve had in the Saban era. I expect a big performance from him, opening up things for Damien and Najee Harris in the rushing attack. A problem area for the Tide has been their defence, however they were generally good against the run last week. If they can take away Lawrence’s deep ball, I’m very confident laying just the 6 points.
Whilst this line is very well set, I think the pressure of a National title game will cause some offensive nerves that result in an under. Especially with a freshman QB in Trevor Lawrence, Alabama is by far the best side he has faced in his young career. I expect a defensive masterclass in this one as Alabama contain the dynamic Clemson attack. On the other side, I expect Alabama to control this one with their excellent trio of Running Backs. They should put up around 30 points and assuming they cover the spread, would then result in the under.
First Touchdown Scorer: Damien Harris
Tying in with my Alabama to cover the spread bet, I’m relatively confident they will open the scoring here. Despite Tagovailoa’s recent brilliance, I think the value is on one of the Running Backs to score first. In what will be his final game for the Tide, I expect Damien Harris to continue to start and get the lion’s share of the carries. He had two touchdowns against Oklahoma last week and I see no reason why he can’t match that here. If Alabama is in deep red-zone position, expect to see #34 toting the rock.
Score Prediction: Alabama Crimson Tide 31-24 Clemson Tigers