Urban Meyer’s Uncertain Future Leaves Buckeyes’ 2018 Hopes in Limbo

urban-meyer-administrative-leaveOhio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer has been placed on administrative leave. The school is currently investigating whether Meyer knew about allegations that assistant coach Zach Smith was abusing his then-wife, Courtney.

Meyer fired Smith last week. Smith is accused of abusing his wife multiple times over a six-year span, dating back to his time as a member of Meyer’s Florida Gators staff.

The domestic voilence came to public attention after Smith was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing in May. Courtney Smith later obtained a restraining order that prevents Zach from coming within 500 feet of her.

Ryan Day Will Serve as Interim Coach

Ohio State announced that they are currently “conducting an investigation into these allegations.” Ryan Day, the team’s offensive coordinator, will take over head coaching duties while Meyer is on leave.

An Ohio State press release reads: “We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible.”

Meyer also released his own statement: “[Athletic director] Gene [Smith] and I agree that being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter.”

How Much did Meyer Know about the Abuse?

urban-meyer-zach-smith-domesti-abuseMeyer admitted that he was aware of a 2009 domestic violence incident between Smith and his ex-wife. The former was head coach of the Gators at the time, while Smith was a staff intern.

However, Meyer has been quick to deny any knowledge about domestic abuse since then. Text messages obtained by college football reporter Brett McMurphy, along with an interview from Courtney Smith, suggest otherwise.

Ohio State is currently examining text messages exchanged between Courtney and other wives of the Buckeye coaching staff. Urban’s wife, Shelley, sent particularly damning messages that indicate she knew Courtney was suffering from domestic violence. One text even shows a bruised Courtney after a run-in with Smith.

2015 Text Indicates that Meyer Knew of Continued Domestic Violence

McMurphy’s report includes a Nov. 2015 text conversation between Courtney and Lindsey Voltolini, wife of OSU director of football operations Brian Voltolini. Although a third-hand account, the text conversation makes it seem as if Meyer indeed knew of Zach and Courtney’s abusive relationship.

Here’s the text exchange in question:

  • Courtney: “(Zach’s) trying to make me look crazy bc that’s what Shelley is saying (he’s doing)”
  • Lindsey: “He (Urban) just said he (Zach) denied everything”
  • Courtney: “I hope urban is smarter than that”
  • Lindsey: “He (Urban) doesn’t know what to think”
  • Courtney: “I don’t really care. Ya know”
  • Lindsey: “Yeah, don’t worry about urb”

Courtney also detailed conversations that she had with Shelley Meyer.

“In 2015, I spoke to Shelley. I sent her some pictures. I spoke to her on the phone,” Courtney explained.

“Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban. I said, ‘That’s fine. You should tell Urban. We can’t have somebody like this coaching young men.’ ”

Shelley would continue to check in on Courtney to see if she was alright from time to time. But Courtney admits that she doesn’t know for sure whether Shelly ever told her husband.

courtney-smith-ohio-state“She would reach out to me, ask me how I’m doing, tell me she’s worried and that if I needed anything she was there,” said Courtney. “When somebody is crying out for help, I believe the coach and the coach’s wife have a duty. They have a duty to do something. To help.”

Courtney Smith added that she believes Shelley did talk with Urban about the matter. But she has no concrete proof of the allegations.

“I hope in the future he never turns his head away again,” she said. “I know Shelley did everything she could. I firmly believe that.

“She was very supportive. She never made me feel uncomfortable. She never made me feel like I was a threat by telling her these things.

“I believe [Urban] knew. Instead he chose to help the abuser. Nobody from the university came to me and asked me for my side of the story. That’s a problem. It needs to change.”

Why wouldn’t Meyer Fire Smith Earlier if He Knew?

urban-meyer-fired-osuUrban Meyer and Zach Smith have a strong connection that dates back years ago. Smith is the grandson of former Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce, who was like a father figure to Meyer.

In 2002, Zach walked onto the Bowling Green team coached by Meyer. The latter would bring Smith on as an intern with the Gators in 2005.

Zach remained with the team in different roles during that time. He later received coaching positions at Temple and Marshall before again joining Meyer as the Ohio State receivers coach in 2012.

That said, this long-term relationship — along with Meyer having received mentoring from Bruce — may have played a role in avoiding the truth, if this is indeed the case.

Meyer has been head coach of the Buckeyes since 2012. He’s compiled a 73-8 record since then and won the 2014 national title. The 54-year-old also won titles at Florida in 2006 and 2008.

Ohio State’s 2018 Odds with Meyer’s Career in Jeopardy

Urban Meyer could very well be fired if there’s enough evidence to suggest that he knew about Smith’s continued abuse of Courtney. But even with Meyer’s future in jeopardy, it doesn’t appear to be affecting Ohio State’s national championship odds.

The Buckeyes currently sit with the third-best odds of winning at +600, according to GTBets. Alabama (+225) and Clemson (+575) are the only schools ahead of them.

Assuming Meyer does indeed get fired, though, it could change these odds. However, futures bettors should wait for the outcome of the investigation before taking anything as a guarantee.

2018 March Madness Odds: Syracuse vs. TCU

tcu-syracuse-odds-1One of the more-intriguing matchups in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament is No. 6 TCU and No. 11 Syracuse.

The Orange (20-13) barely made it into the 2018 March Madness field. They then beat Arizona State 60-56 in a play-in game to arrive here.

TCU began the year with a 12-game winning streak. But they had an up-and-down Big 12 slate that resulted in a 9-9 conference record. The good news for the Horned Frogs (21-11), though, is that they never had to worry about getting selected for the field.

No. 11 and No. 6 matchups are always tricky from a betting perspective. That said, I’ll break down the odds and discuss both team’s chances of covering in this game.

Syracuse vs. TCU Odds (Friday, March 16 at 9:40pm)

  • Syracuse +4 (-110) / +165 moneyline
  • TCU – 4 (-110) / -185 moneyline
  • Over/under 136.5
  • Odds from GTBets.eu

Why Syracuse will Cover

The Orange are regarded as the last team to earn a selection bid. They beat out fellow bubble schools Oklahoma State and Notre Dame to make the Big Dance. And Syracuse has somewhat justified their inclusion by beating Arizona State. But another win would undoubtedly validate them being here.

syracuse-tcu-oddsThe knock against Syracuse is that they haven’t beaten many quality opponents. Their only victories over quadrant 1 schools include Louisville, Miami, Buffalo, and Wake Forest.

Their losses to 11-20 Wake Forest and 13-19 Georgia Tech are particularly ugly. And their ACC tournament run ended in the second round with a 78-59 blowout loss to North Carolina. That said, you never know what the Orange will bring to the court.

Tyus Battle averages 19 PPG and can come through in the clutch. But as a team, the Orange only score 67.5 PPG and shoot 41.8% from the field. This goes a long way to explaining their inconsistencies.

What Syracuse does do well is defend. They hold opponents to just 64.5 PPG and 39.6% shooting. This strong defense can keep them in almost any game, regardless of how they’re shooting. Expect Syracuse to do their best to make this an ugly and low-scoring scoring affair.

Why TCU will Cover

The Horned Frogs looked like a bonafide title contender in running off 12 victories to open the year. But conference play was mired by a number of losing and winning streaks.

tcu-syracuse-oddsOf course, some of this was attributed to bad luck. TCU had a three-game losing streak in early January, where they lost to Kansas by 4, Texas by 1 in double overtime, and Oklahoma by 5 in overtime. Had things went differently in a couple of these contests, the Frogs might be facing a No. 13 or No. 14 seed in the first round.

TCU’s best attribute is their offensive efficiency since they rank eighth in the nation. They have five players scoring in double figures and share the ball very well. Forward Vladimir Brodziansky leads this balanced attack with 15.1 PPG.

What the Horned Frogs don’t do well is play on the road. They went just 4-7 away from home and have lost three of their last four away contests. It’s also worth adding that their 12-game win streak came in part because these were all home games.

The challenge for them will be performing well on neutral courts during the tournament.

Prediction on Syracuse vs. TCU

Good defense can always help you win games. And this is why Syracuse can’t be counted out in this one. However, the Orange have had their biggest struggles against teams that are efficient on offense. In fact, they’re 0-9 against teams that rank within the top 30 in offensive efficiency.

TCU will be looking to deliver the 10th such loss. The Frogs aren’t perfect, especially when they go on the road. But I like them to win this contest by 6-7 points.

Final score prediction: TCU wins 74-67 and covers their -4 spread.

Nick Saban, Kirby Smart Scenario Adds to College Football Championship Drama

nick-saban-kirby-smartThe 2018 College Football Championship game will certainly be an interesting one. Not only does this title matchup feature two SEC schools, but also a student vs. teacher scenario.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart was Alabama coach Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator for seven years, before becoming the Bulldogs’ head man.

The good news is that there’s no bad blood between these two. In fact, Saban offered praise earlier this season for the guy who was with him at Alabama, LSU, and the Miami Dolphins.

AL.com reports that this game isn’t personal in any way. “As the people who know them will tell you, in their 11 years together, nine of them at Alabama,” writes AL’s Kevin Scarbinsky, “their relationship was strictly business, and business was very good.”

Nevertheless, this is certainly a game that both coaches want to win badly. Saban has always been one of the most competitive coaches in college football history. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that he’s won four national championships at Alabama in nine years. If he’s able to win on Monday, this would be his fifth.

Smith no doubt wants to get his first-ever title as a head coach. And perhaps it would be even sweeter for him to beat his mentor in the process.

Saban Never Envisioned the National Title would be this Way

nick-saban-alabama-1Neither coach will admit that their competitive juices want them to beat the other side. But Saban did discuss how he couldn’t have envisioned this is how the College Football Championship would play out.

“I never imagined it, never thought of it that way,” Saban told the media. “I’m proud of the fact that Kirby has done a great job. He’s a done a fantastic job to get them to this level.

“He did a fabulous job for us for the years that he was with us. It’s certainly a challenge to play against someone who does such a good job.”

Of course, nobody has done as good as Saban in the modern college football game. But he’ll have the task of trying to win his first national title without Smart on his staff.

Saban’s assistants haven’t had much luck against him. They’re currently 0-11 against their old boss. If Smart can win, he’ll be the first former assistant to accomplish this feat in 12 tries.

kirby-smart-georgiaSmart sees similarities between Alabama and Georgia entering this game. But he also wants to reiterate that the Bulldogs aren’t trying to be anything but themselves.

“I’m close to a lot of those guys, but the game is not between Coach Saban and I,” Smart explained. “I know who he is, I know what he does. He knows everything that I do and that we do. There’s a lot of similarities between the two programs.

“We’re trying to be Georgia, and they’re trying to be Alabama. That’s the bottom line. It’s not really about he and I. I have tremendous respect for him and everything he stands for, and he’s been a great asset to my career.”

Smart added that he’s still close with some of the former Tide players from when he was on the staff.

“I watch those guys when I’m not playing them, from afar, watching a game. I’m cheering and rooting for every kid I signed.

“There’s a lot of guys that are seniors and juniors on that defense, that team, that I know their families and they’ve sent me congratulatory texts, but I know where my focus and concentration is. It’s on giving our team the best chance they’ve got. I can’t be thinking about personal relationships to do that.”

Alabama is Facing a Familiar Foe

Much how Smart is familiar with his former Tide players, Alabama also knows Georgia well. In fact, Smart’s defensive coordinator spot was filled by Jeremy Pruitt, who served as the Bulldogs’ DC from 2014-15. The two even game-planned on how to shut down Clemson’s Deshaun Watson last year.

nick-saban-kirby-smart-title-game“Everybody’s worked together so much, we kind of know what each other wants to do in certain situations, so it’s gonna be about the players going in to execute,” Pruitt said.

“There’s probably some advantages both ways, but at the same time you can possibly have too much information. It’s definitely interesting.”

The Alabama players even think that Smart and Saban are very much alike.

“They’re very similar,” said Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. “They’re both very passionate, both very thorough in what they do in their gameplans. They challenge their players to do what they’re supposed to do.”

Running back Damien Harris also chimed in.

“[Smart] knows what we do, but I think Coach Saban knows a little bit better what he’s going to do,” said Harris, “considering he learned it all from Coach Saban.”

Game time is set for tomorrow night at 8:10pm EST. And our GTBets line has Alabama as a -3.5 favorite. That said, you still have time to place a bet if you like the Tide or Bulldogs in this one.

Alabama Georgia Odds – College Football Championship

georgia-alabama-oddsNo. 4 Alabama will take on No. 2 Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship. This is the second time in the past seven years that we’ll see an All-SEC title game.

Under Nick Saban, Alabama has made fairly regular appearances on this stage. 2018 will represent the sixth time in the last nine seasons that Saban’s Crimson Tide will play for a championship. Alabama is 4-1 in national title contests under Saban.

Georgia is in less familiar territory, because this is their first championship appearance since 1983. And they haven’t won a national title since 1980.

One more piece of history worth mentioning before we get into the game analysis is that Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart was once one of Saban’s assistants. And the latter is 11-0 all time against his former assistants. Can Kirby break the streak?

Let’s find out by covering what each team needs to do to win. But I’m first going to cover the odds from the GTBets sportsbook.

2018 College Football Championship Odds (Jan 8 at 8:10pm ET)

Alabama Georgia Point Spread
Alabama -4 (-110)
Georgia +4 (-110)

Alabama Georgia Moneyline
Alabama -185 (-110)
Georgia +165 (-110)

Over 44.5 (-110)
Under 44.5 (-110)

Key Factors for Georgia (12-1)

jalen-hurts-alabamaJust like Bama, the Bulldogs need strong play from their young quarterback.

Jalen Hurts, a sophomore who took over the starting job last season, has national title experience. However, he’s also thrown fewer passes and for less yardage this season.

Hurts is still a work in progress as a passer. But he makes smart decisions and threw just one interception in 13 games. Hurts also has the ability to pick up large chunks of yardage on the ground.

Calvin Ridley is the top receiver on this team. He’s caught 53 passes for 935 yards and 4 touchdowns, which is very good on a team that prefers to run.

Speaking of which, Alabama will rely on a plethora of running backs to move the ball. Damien Harris lead the team in rushing with 983 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Bo Scarbrough (573 yards, 8 TDs), Najee Harris (306 yards, 3 TDs), and Josh Jacobs (276, TD) will all get carries.

The Tide will lean heavily on their elite defensive unit. They led college football by limiting opponents to 11.1 points per game. They also held opponents to just 3.92 yards per play.

Another promising defensive stat for Alabama is that they only allow 91.8 rushing yards per game. Furthermore, they’ve given up just two rushes of 40 or more yards. That said, Georgia’s talented running backs likely won’t break any huge plays.

alabama-linebackers-injuriesAll of this is made more impressive when considering that the Tide lost so much talent to the NFL Draft in the spring. They’ve also dealt with multiple injuries to their front seven, including Dylan Moses during bowl practices and Anfernee Jennings hurting his knee in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama has plenty of other talent across the board. Senior defensive tackle (11.5 TFL) will plug the middle, while nose guard Da’Ron Payne is also a run-stuffer. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is perhaps the best defensive player in the nation. He can both cover elite receivers and provide strong run-stopping support at the line of scrimmage.

The Crimson Tide have several points going in their favor. They just need to put everything together to win Saban’s fifth championship in less than a decade.

Key Factors for Alabama (12-1)

This is a tough national championship game to call, because both Georgia and Alabama have similar styles. They’re teams that like to run the football and play strong defense. On the other hand, neither of these schools are known for throwing long-field bombs all game.

jake-fromm-titleBut this is one area where the Bulldogs will try to create some separation. True freshman Jake Fromm has played very well ever since taking over for the injured Jacob Eason. Fromm has thrown for 2,383 yards, 23 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. He’s also completed 63.7 percent of his passes, and got a late TD throw against Oklahoma that sent the game into overtime.

Georgia’s game plan won’t center on Fromm’s throwing abilities. But if he can deliver like he did against Oklahoma, it’ll certainly help the Bulldogs’ chances.

But Georgia will mainly look for their talented tailbacks to take the pressure off the freshmen signal caller. Senior Nick Chubb has had an outstanding season with 1,320 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Fellow senior Sony Michel has also made important contributions with 1,129 rushing yards and 16 TDs.

nick-chubb-title-gameAs if these two aren’t enough, freshman D’Andre Swift has had a solid campaign with 603 yards and three scores on the ground. If anybody can break through the imposing Alabama front seven, it’s the trio of Chubb, Michel, and Swift.

The Bulldogs also bring a tough defense into this contest. They ranked fifth nationally in points allowed per game at 15.7. They also hold opponents to just 4.65 yards per play. Georgia ranks well in rushing yards allowed too, limiting opponents to 121.9 per game.

This team may not have the recent championship experience that Alabama has. But Georgia is equally deserving of being here. Their strong defense and rushing attack definitely gives them a chance to win this game.

Prediction on Alabama vs Georgia

nick-saban-alabamaThe 2018 College Football National Championship game is more like an end of the regular season rivalry game than anything. And this is perfectly all right with me, given that these two teams will make for a very competitive contest.

Alabama is a moderate favorite at -4. And this makes sense, given that they hold a slight edge in most statistical categories.

Of course, stats don’t mean everything and Georgia should give them a good run. But I have a difficult time seeing this Crimson Tide squad losing two national championships in a row. Furthermore, they simply have more experience than Georgia at this level.

Final Score Prediction: Alabama 28, Georgia 23
Alabama covers -4 spread

Georgia vs Oklahoma: 2018 CFP Odds & Predictions

baker-mayfield-oklahomaThe No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners face off in the Rose Bowl, which is a weird setting for a Big 12 and SEC team. The last time that the Rose Bowl didn’t feature either a Pac-12 or Big Ten team was 2002, when Miami destroyed then-Big 12 member Nebraska 37-14.

With all their talent, Oklahoma is unlikely to suffer a similar fate as the Cornhuskers. But can they get by the second-seeded Bulldogs to make the national title game? Let’s find out by looking at the odds from our GTBets sportsbook along with the keys for each team winning this game.

2018 College Football Playoff Odds for Rose Bowl (Jan 1 at 5:00pm ET)

Georgia vs Oklahoma Point Spread
Georgia -1 (-120)
Oklahoma +1 (+100)

Over 60 (-110)
Under 60 (-110)

Key Factors for Georgia

This season certainly hasn’t been easy for Georgia. Starting quarterback Jacob Eason hurt his knee in this season opener and missed a significant amount of time.

jake-fromm-georgiaFew expected the Bulldogs to be in this position, given that true freshman Jake Fromm took over the offense. However, Fromm quickly engineered a victory over Notre Dame in his first start. He’s also played pretty well throughout the entire season.

George ran out to a 9-0 start, only to have Auburn end their perfect season. The Bulldogs didn’t hang their heads, though, getting revenge on the Tigers in the SEC Championship.

This victory was especially impressive given that Georgia won in a 28-7 blowout. They were also able to end Alabama’s dominance over the conference.

The Auburn game is a perfect example of why Georgia stands a chance of beating any team in the country, including the Sooners. They outgained the Tigers 421-259 in yardage, won the rushing battle 238-114, and also forced two turnovers while giving up none.

Overall, Georgia has outgained and outrushed 12 its 13 opponents. Their defense has also held 10 teams to 14 points or less.

The Bulldogs are a complete team that’s in the College Football Playoff for a reason. They’re not going to wow you with stars and award finalists. But they can overwhelm you as a collective unit.

The big key for Georgia will be how their defense holds up against Mayfield and Oklahoma. Georgia features the fourth-best defense in the nation, and they’re ranked second nationally to Alabama in passing yards allowed her attempt (5.58 yards).

Missouri’s Drew Lock showed that it’s possible to pass on this secondary. However, J.R. Reed, Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker will all be at the top of their game for this high-profile contest.

Key Factors for Oklahoma

Every conversation regarding Oklahoma begins with their quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The Austin, Texas native came to the Sooners as a mere walk-on. Four years later, he’s now the biggest star in college football and has a chance to lead his team to a national title.

baker-mayfield-vs-georgiaOf course, Oklahoma is about more than just one player. Their offense produced the highest scoring output in the nation at 44.9 points per game.

However, the Sooners had few believers at the beginning of the season. It wasn’t until they beat Ohio State convincingly on the road that they gained serious attention.

People would lose faith again when Oklahoma lost to Iowa State in October. But this Cyclones team has proven to be pretty good. Nobody is doubting the Sooners now, especially the way they’ve rattled off seven wins in a row.

Oklahoma capped off their strong regular season with a 17-0 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Championship. They outgained TCU 461-317, including a 218-83 rushing advantage. If Oklahoma can get this kind of ground support against Georgia, it’s likely that they move onto the CFP Championship.

Another key for the Sooners will be how their offensive line protects Mayfield. Odds are that they’ll hold up, given that they’ve done a good job of blocking for Mayfield and the running backs all season.

Prediction on Georgia vs Oklahoma

Between this game and the Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Clemson, I see this one being the least closest.

Georgia has no doubt had an excellent season, especially when considering that they lost their starting quarterback early. But it’s arguable that they’re not even the best team in the SEC, let alone the nation.

I think that the Bulldogs’ defense can slow Mayfield a bit. But the likely Heisman candidate will probably still light up the Rose Bowl.

In what’s being billed as a matchup of offense vs. defense, I like Mayfield and the Sooners’ offense by a comfortable margin.

Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma 36, Georgia 19

Alabama vs Clemson: 2018 CFP Odds & Predictions

clemson-alabama-odds-2018One of the 2018 College Football Playoff (CFP) games pits No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Alabama. This is an intriguing matchup for two main reasons:

1) These two faced off in the title game last season.
2) These are the previous two CFP champions.

This is a difficult game to decipher. Both teams have the talent and pedigree to win it all. But then again, I can see both schools having a chance to score a blowout.

Our GTBets line has this pegged as a close matchup at -3. What should you expect when the Tigers and Crimson Tide meet on Monday? Let’s find out by looking at the odds and what each school must do to win.

2018 College Football Playoff Odds for Sugar Bowl (Jan 1 at 8:45pm ET)

Alabama vs Clemson Point Spread
Alabama -3 (-110)
Clemson +3 (-110)

Alabama vs Clemson Moneyline Odds
Alabama -152
Clemson +132

Over 47 (-110)
Under 47 (-110)

Key Factors for Alabama

alabama-linebackers-injuriesOne of the big stories for Alabama is the injuries they’ve had in their linebacking corp. True freshman Dylan Moses suffered a season-ending toe injury in practice recently. Moses is just the latest Tide linebacker added to an ailing list that also includes senior Shaun Dion Hamilton (kneecap), junior Christian Miller (biceps), and sophomore Terrell Lewis (elbow).

The good news is that Lewis, Miller, and sophomore Mack Wilson (foot) are recovering in time for the Sugar Bowl matchup. They can also bank on senior Rashaan Evans, who earned second-team all conference honors after tallying 10.5 tackles for a loss.

Beyond the linebackers, Alabama will welcome back star junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who hurt his hamstring against LSU in early November.

The Tide have been dominant defensively during Nick Saban’s tenure. So it’s no surprise that they’ve gotten by, even without key defensive players. Alabama’s defense should be all the stronger when they return Fitzpatrick and multiple linebackers.

Another key will be how many plays Jalen Hurts can make at quarterback. He’s been maligned this season due to his lack of passing consistency. However, if it’s also worth mentioning that Hurts doesn’t make many mistakes either (one interception in 2017).

jalen-hurts-alabamaAssuming Hurts connects on a couple of long throws, he can balance out his ability to run the football. It’s also worth mentioning that the sophomore has completed five passes of 60+ yards, which ranks second in the SEC to Missouri QB Drew Lock (8 long passes).

Hurts can also rely on big play receivers in Calvin Ridley and Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs, a true freshman, has been more involved recently and averages 25 yards per catch.

Assuming the Crimson Tide can get their offense going, then it’s very likely they’ll win this game when accounting for their strong defense.

Key Factors for Clemson

kelly-bryant-clemson-starterJust like Hurts, Clemson QB Kelly Bryant will also need to make big plays in order for the Tigers to win. Bryant is a clear step down from two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. But this is a given, considering how Watson was lighting up the NFL out before his ACL injury.

Focusing strictly on Bryant, he has the size (6’4″, 220 pounds) and running ability that you want from a good college quarterback. But he really needs to make plays with his arm against Alabama’s tough defense. Bryant is capable of making this happen, but will he deliver like Watson did against the Tide last year?

He only ranked ninth among ACC quarterbacks on throws over 10 yards. But he also has the ability to rise to the occasion, such as when he completed 23-of-29 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown against Miami.

The junior has several tailbacks that’ll help keep the pressure off and open up passing lanes. These include true freshman Travis Etienne, sophomore Tavien Feaster, and redshirt juniors Adam Choice and C.J. Fuller. Etienne and Feaster are especially important because they’re averaging a combined 6.8 yards per carry.

The biggest advantage for Clemson coming into this game is their defensive line. Outside of Ohio State, no team – even counting Alabama and its blue-chip recruits – has as talented a defensive line as the Tigers.

clemson-defenseTackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence both earned first-team All-ACC honors, along with defensive end Clelin Ferrell. Fellow end Austin Bryant earned second-team honors, getting beaten out by NC State standout Bradley Chubb.

This unit is very capable of stopping Alabama tailbacks Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs at the line. They also have the potential to force Bryant into making some errant throws. That said, don’t be surprised if Clemson’s defense is the star of the show.

Prediction on Alabama vs Clemson

I really like what the Tigers bring to the table from a defense of perspective. They also have some talented running backs who can move the chains.

Bryant is also a capable playmaker when he gets enough time. However, the key here is that Bryant is no Deshaun Watson when it comes to throwing the ball.

Last year, Nick Saban’s team took Clemson to the limit in a 45-40 loss. This season, Saban doesn’t have to prepare for Watson. That, combined with the returning health of Alabama’s defense, should spell victory for the Tide.

Final Score Prediction: Alabama 31, Clemson 23