Updated: 12/29/2017: Injury Update
Alabama has a few key injuries on defense. They will be without defensive back Hootie Jones (53 tackles, two int’s), and freshman linebacker Dylan Moses (30 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss) who was injured in practice earlier this month. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton (40 tackles, 2.5 sacks) is also out.
Clemson linebacker Tre Lamar (50 tackles, four sacks) will suit up in this one after missing the final three games of the season. Lamar is effective against the run and will play a key role against Alabama’s running game. Cornerback Mark Fields is probable.
#4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1; 5-7 ATS: 5-7 O/U) vs. #1 Clemson Tigers (12-1; 8-4-1 ATS; 4-8 O/U)
The Clemson Tigers will collide with the Alabama Crimson Tide in a rematch of last year’s National Championship game in the Sugar Bowl on New Years Day from the Mercedes-Banz Superdome in New Orleans. The Crimson Tide went 11-1 on the season with a 7-1 mark in SEC play, while the Tigers posted a 12-1 record and went 8-1 in ACC action. The winner in this game game will play the winner of the Georgia/Oklahoma game in the National Championship on January 8th. This is the third consecutive year this teams will meet in the Playoff, and Clemson defeated Alabama by a 35-31 score in the Championship game last season.
Alabama Looks to Avenge Loss to Clemson
The Alabama Crimson Tide will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after falling to Clemson in last year’s National Championship. Alabama also has their 26-14 defeat to Auburn in the regular season finale fresh on their minds. The Crimson Tide do most of their damage on the ground and feature several threats. QB Jalen Hurts was nearly flawless this season, notching 1940 passing yards with a 15:1 TD to INT ratio, and also rushed for 768 yards. The sophomore quarterback tallied 131 passing yards with one TD and collected 63 rushing yards in last year’s loss to Clemson. Junior running back Damian Harris along with Bo Scarbrough are both capable of doing damage. Harris recorded 906 rushing yards and averaged a sizzling 8.2 yards per carry. Alabama’s leading receiver Calvin Ridley will likely be targeted several times by Hurts in this battle. The junior wide receiver collected 896 receiving yards on the season. Several of Alabama’s offensive starters played in last year’s Championship game against Clemson including Hurts, Scarbrough, Harris and Ridley. Alabama’s running game is averaging 265 rushing yards per game, good for tenth in the Country.
The Crimson Tide’ vaunted defense had another dominating season. They feature the number one ranked defense in the Country, allowing an average of only 11.5 points per game. They conceded ten or fewer points eight times this season, and feature the third-ranked rush defense and seventh-ranked pass defense. They do have a key injury as safety Hootie Jones is out. Alabama went 3-1 against ranked teams this season.
Tigers Crush Miami, Target Second Straight Win Over Alabama
The Clemson Tigers are only two wins away from their second straight National Championship led by head coach Dabo Swinney. Their only blemish this season was a 27-24 road loss to Syracuse back in October in a game QB Kelly Bryant left early with a concussion. Kelly Bryant did not put up big numbers this season, recording a total of 2678 passing yards with a 13:6 TD to INT ratio, and added 646 rushing yards. The junior quarterback was outstanding in the Tigers last two games against two tough opponents, throwing for a combined 524 yards with a 3:1 TD to INT ratio. Similar to Alabama, Clemson features multiple running backs that can burn opponents including Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Etienne has tallied 744 rushing yards with 13 TD’s, and Feaster posted 659 yards. Clemson has a deep receiving group highlighted by Deon Cain. The junior wide receiver accumulated 659 receiving yards this season, and made eight grabs for 94 yards against Alabama in last year’s Championship game. The Clemson offense put on a dazzling performance in the ACC Championship game against a terrific Miami Florida defense, and are averaging 35.4 points per game.
The Tigers defense is right behind Alabama with the second ranked defense in the Country. They are only conceding an average of 12.8 points and 277 total yards per game. Clemson leads the Country with 44 sacks led by Clelin Ferrell with 8.5 on the season. The Tigers went a perfect 6-0 against ranked teams, which included a 38-3 win over Miami in the ACC Championship game.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are:
- 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games against a team with a winning record.
- 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games in January.
- 3-14 ATS in their last 17 games following a straight up loss.
The Clemson Tigers are:
- 7-0 ATS in their last 7 bowl games.
- 8-0 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games.
- 10-1 ATS in their last 11 neutral site games.
I am siding with Clemson in this contest. Alabama showed a chink in their armor in the loss to Auburn in their regular season finale, surrendering 408 total yards. Clemson just crushed seventh-ranked Miami by a 38-3 score in the ACC Championship game, proving they can do damage against one of the better defensive teams in the Country. In addition, Clemson does own a better passing game than Alabama, and they possess a talented receiving core. Furthermore, Clemson features an outstanding rush defense that is holding opponents to average of 112 rushing yards per game, and I am confident they can contain Jalen Hurts and the Alabama running game. Alabama is coming off a loss, while the Tigers are on a roll, riding a six game winning streak.
Pick: Clemson Tigers
This showdown features the best two defensive teams in the Country facing off. I expect Clemson to contain the Alabama running game, plus the under is 5-1 in Alabama’s last six games after recording more than 200 rushing yards in their previous game. The Alabama defense will be able to limit Clemson’s offense as well, and the under is 5-0 in the Tigers last six games against a team with a winning record. Alabama is only allowing an average 11.5 points and Clemson 12.8 points, and this total is high enough for me to feel very confident in the under considering the strength of the defense on both teams.