Will Jim Harbaugh Bolt Michigan for Bears or Colts?

jim-harbaugh-michigan-bears-coltsThe Michigan Wolverines’ season began promisingly, with a 4-0 start and wins over Florida and Air Force. It was beginning to look like coach Jim Harbaugh was turning Michigan back into a storied program.

The Wolverines have since stumbled, though, with losses to Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Following a 24-10 loss to the Badgers, they sit at 8-3 going into a rivalry game with Ohio State.

The truth is that Michigan is a good team. Good enough to dominate the likes of Cincinnati, Maryland, Purdue, and Rutgers. But they’re just not on the same par as elite Big Ten teams.

This much was evident from last Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. The Wolverines played well for about 30 minutes, keeping the game locked at 7-7.

But then the Badgers finally started putting points on the board. The Wolverines fell behind 21-10 at one point and never had a chance to catch up from there.

This is just the latest big game that Michigan has failed to win. And it has many wondering if Harbaugh has his eyes on other jobs since things aren’t coming together at Michigan.

Harbaugh’s 4-Year Rule

jim-harbaugh-stanfordLooking back at Harbaugh’s other stints, he stays at a gig for four years before moving on. I doubt this is by design – it’s just his coaching history.

The San Francisco 49ers, Stanford Cardinals, and University of San Diego are all jobs where Harbaugh stayed for four years. He’s now in his third year with the Wolverines, meaning it won’t be a surprise if he leaves soon.

The 53-year-old coach never ended any of his previous jobs with a bad record. Even when he was forced out of the Niners job, his team finished a respectable 8-8. His tenure there only ended because of a contentious relationship with the front office.

But so far, his time at Michigan has been a disappointment due to a lack of defining victories. Wolverine faithful were hoping for the second coming of Bo Schembechler 2.0. But they haven’t gotten Lloyd Carr up to this point.

“This is Michigan football right now,” writes the Detroit Free Press’ Nick Baumgardner. “A team that’s not ready to sit at the big table. A coaching staff that has a lot of questions to answer. A program that’s got a long way to go.”

Will Harbaugh be Fired at Michigan?

Michigan is as passionate about football as any major program. And they expect to be in the conversation for the national championship every year.

Unfortunately, they haven’t been on the national radar since the 2006 season, when Carr guided the program to an 11-2 finish. The aftermath has seen Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke fail to keep the school’s winning tradition.

Harbaugh has been better than his two predecessors, finishing with a 10-3 record in each of his first two seasons. But at 8-3 with Ohio State coming up, the needle isn’t moving in the right direction. If Harbaugh loses to the Buckeyes this Saturday, he’ll be 1-5 against the school’s rivals.

Would Michigan would ever fire their coach if he can’t beat rivals? The answer is likely no, as long as he keeps winning 9-10 games a year.

However, the reality is that Harbaugh is still in demand in NFL circles. It seems more likely that he’ll simply walk to a new job while he’s still a hot commodity than get fired.

Chicago Bears are a Possible Destination

jim-harbaugh-bearsThe Chicago Bears were never expected to do well this season. But they started off as a feel-good story, going 3-4 with a largely untalented roster.

Chicago has since fallen to 3-7 amid a three-game losing streak. And it’s very possible that the team will fire head coach John Fox, who’s 12-30 with the team so far.

If the Bears job opens up, it would definitely tempt Harbaugh, who quarterbacked Chicago throughout the late 1980s and early 90s.

He’d start a rebuilding process with a highly touted young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. And the Chicago fan base would likely be patient after several years of losing.

Chicago Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome wrote about how having Harbaugh as the coach carries more appeal than just potential wins:

“While there is no indication Harbaugh would leave his alma mater for the Bears or any other pro job, his name always appears on any wish list, whether it is a columnist’s or an owner’s.

“That is the benefit, or the curse, of being interesting, something John Fox certainly is not. Nor are most coaches in the NFL. The Bears have not had a conversation piece as coach since Mike Ditka.

“Harbaugh turns the volume up wherever he goes, and the noise around the Bears has been something between a whisper and lullaby.

“Not that it matters, but there is also the real benefit that Harbaugh actually can coach, that he has a way with quarterbacks, having been a half-decent one himself.”

The Colts are Another Possibility

Harbaugh could also find himself going to another former NFL team that he played for in the Indianapolis Colts. This has just as much to do with reuniting Harbaugh and Andrew Luck as it does previous coaching accomplishments.

The two formed a very successful pairing at the University of Standard. And as long as Harbaugh can put up with bungling Colts owner Jim Irsay, everything would be golden if Luck returns from a lingering shoulder injury.

Staying in Michigan?

harbaugh-michiganThe one thing that might prevent Harbaugh from leaving Michigan early is that it’s his alma mater. This, and the fact that he has unfinished business at Ann Arbor are good reasons to stay.

One more important point here is that Jim Harbaugh is football’s highest-paid coach at $9 million. No college or NFL coach is within $1 million of this amount.

However, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he’s still a candidate for multiple NFL jobs. And he may start his 4-year leaving tradition one year early if/when the Bears and Colts come calling. Fox will likely be fired in Chicago, while Indianapolis will probably do the same with coach Chuck Pagano.

These talks will only intensify if Harbaugh loses to the Buckeyes a third straight time. According to our GTBets line, Michigan is an 11.5-point underdog at home. And Ohio State has plenty to play for because they still have an outside shot at the College Football Playoff.

We’ll probably learn far more on this situation within the coming weeks.

Ohio State in Big Ten’s CFP Driver Seat after Penn State Win

ohio-state-over-penn-stateOhio State football is now in command of the Big Ten East following a 39-38 comeback victory over the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions. This is revenge for the No. 3 Buckeyes after their 24-21 upset loss in Happy Valley last season.

The visitors jumped out to a quick lead after Penn State’s star running back Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Nittany Lions added another first-quarter TD to take a 14-0 lead.

Ohio State battled back, but found themselves down by at least 10 points at three different junctures of the game. Penn State still led with over 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett gave Ohio State the lead for good with a 16-yard TD pass to Marcus Baugh. This helped the Buckeyes outscore the Nittany Lions 19-3 in the last stanza.

“You got to give Ohio State, the crowd, the environment, the stadium, Coach (Urban) Meyer, his team credit,” said Penn State coach James Franklin. “They’re obviously a very, very good football team, (and) it’s a tough place to come and get a win.”

“In no way shape or form should anyone have their head down,” tight end Mike Gesicki said following the game. “Obviously, we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, but playing on the road in this kind of atmosphere, to come up that short, we can fix the mistakes, we’ll bounce back.”

Biggest Comeback by an Urban Meyer Team

ohio-state-saquon-barkleyOhio State faced an 18-point deficit at two different points in this game. Their victory over Penn state marks the biggest-ever comeback by an Urban Meyer-coached team.

Barrett is one of the biggest reasons why the Buckeyes never gave up in this game. He was 33-for-39 passing with 328 yards and four touchdowns. Ohio State’s defense also did an excellent job of containing Barkley’s rushing prowess.

One more key factor in their victory included a blocked punt with 11:39 left in the fourth. This is fitting because it was a blocked punt that turned the tide of last year’s contest between these two teams.

“The margin of error is very small when you play these types of games,” said Franklin. “I thought the blocked punt was a huge play in the game.”

The Buckeye’s improving secondary locked down Nittany Lions receivers and helped the team be more aggressive against Penn State QB Trent McSorley. They sacked McSorely twice and stuffed the team’s read-option on the edges.

“They did a good job,” said McSorley. “Especially with that opportunity we had to ice it. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

mcsorley-penn-stateMcSorely was referring to a 10-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a field goal with 5:42 left. Penn State was driving with momentum and seemed like they’d get into the end zone.

“They did some different stuff,” said Barkley after scoring two touchdowns on 172 all-purpose yards. “They blitzed us a lot more than they usually did, they stopped the run – we just gotta find a way to run the ball.”

Barkley, one of the leading Heisman candidates, tallied 80 yards from scrimmage. But 36 of these yards came on his lone rushing touchdown.

Ohio State Controls Destiny in CFP Race

Things looked gloomy for Ohio State following the early season lost to Oklahoma. However, they’ve put themselves back in control of their College Football Playoff destiny by winning this big showdown.

The Nittany Lions essentially dominated this game for the first three quarters. But this is when Barrett came to life, going 13-for-13 and delivering two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps this game wouldn’t have come down to the wire if not for a controversial third-quarter call. McSorley threw a pass into the end zone, where Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward and Penn State receiver DeAndre Thompkins battled for the ball.

penn-state-ohio-state-passOfficials reviewed the play for 5 minutes before determining that the players had joint possession, resulting in a Penn State touchdown. The call gave the Nittany Lions a 15-point lead and seemingly deflated the Buckeyes’ chances.

“What happened, the offensive receiver had full possession of the ball, brought the ball down and completed the process of a catch,” said referee John O’Neill. “He then rolled over and at that point, the Ohio State defender came on him. By rule, joint possession belongs to the offense.”

O’Neill added, “The Penn State receiver had the ball first. He brought the ball down, completed the process of a catch, rolled over at which point the Ohio State defender came down on him.”

Facing even longer odds with 22 minutes left, Ohio State was still able to come back and win the game.

This victory by no means puts Ohio State in the CFP. They still play some good teams down the stretch, including Michigan State (6-2), Iowa (5-3), and Michigan (6-2).

Ohio State will also have to play undefeated Wisconsin (8-0) if the latter wins the Big Ten West. But on paper, No. 2 Penn State is the toughest test that the Buckeyes will face in their conference.

Provided they win out, Ohio State will face the Big Ten West winner in the conference championship with a CFP spot on the line.

Barrett Vaults into Heisman Contention

jt-barrett-heismanBarkley was leading the Heisman race up until this point. But as mentioned before, he struggled most of this game, finishing with 44 rushing yards on 21 carries. Outside of 36-yard touchdown run, he had 8 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Barkley’s struggles were especially noticeable in the fourth quarter, when he couldn’t pick up yardage to run out the clock.

Meanwhile, Barrett shined where Barkley faltered by passing for four touchdowns. This gives Barrett 24 touchdown passes against just one interception on the season. And it makes the Oklahoma game where he struggled so badly seem like a distant memory.

As for Barkley, he’s not totally out of the Heisman race. After all, he did turn in 172 all-purpose yards, and the opening kickoff touchdown. But Ohio State held him well under his average of 211 yards per game.

In the end, Barkley only had to shining moments, including the 97-yard kickoff return and the 36-yard rushing touchdown, where he shed a tackle from lineman Tyquan Lewis.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played, and there are other legitimate Heisman candidates. But right now, it seems like Barrett has a slight lead in the race.

Are the Washington State Cougars Real CFP Contenders?

Washington State hasn’t been on the national college football radar since 2002, when they went 10-3 and made a Rose Bowl appearance. But suddenly the Cougars are drawling national attention after beating No. 5 USC 30-27 on Friday night.

Washington State has now started the season 5-0. That said, they’re contenders for the Pac-12 title and also have a shot at earning a College Football Playoff (CFP) spot.

Of course, we’re only five weeks through the 2017-18 season. And this begs the question of whether or not the Cougars are a serious contender.

Let’s discuss this matter below by analyzing the USC victory along with the challenges that Washington State will face as the season moves on.

First Major Win in the Mike Leach Era

Topping the Trojans is not only Washington State’s biggest win of the year, but it’s also the most-important victory in the 5-year Mike Leach era.

washington-state-cfp-2Some say that USC simply didn’t deserve to win this game. But the Cougars must be given credit for standing in with a highly talented team for 60 minutes. Washington State did what USC’s last 13 opponents couldn’t do by winning.

“These are once-in-a-lifetime moments,” WSU quarterback Luke Falk told the Seattle Times. “I’m definitely going to enjoy it with teammates tonight. Couldn’t be more proud.”

Prior to Friday, the 16th-ranked Cougers had never notched a marquee win under Leach. And they’ve certainly had their chances since he took over the program in 2012. Washington State has:

  • Lost to Oregon three straight times when the Ducks were No. 2 overall.
  • Been beaten by Stanford when they were ranked No. 5 and No. 8.
  • Lost to a No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes team.
  • Were defeated by the No. 5 Washington Huskies last year.

What’s even more painful is that some of these losses were close heartbreaks. The best example is when they missed a last-second field goal to beat Stanford in 2015.

But this past week was different because the Cougars played with a mental and physical toughness that they haven’t exhibited in the past.

For starters, they did a good job of containing USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who’s projected as the top NFL quarterback prospect.

washington-state-cfp-3Granted, this wasn’t Darnold’s finest performance as he finished with 15-of-29 passing for no touchowns and one interception. But the Washington State defensive line was dominant and played a large role in his struggles.

Darnold was able to limit Washington State to two sacks thanks to his elusiveness. But this is misleading because the Cougars constantly pressured him throughout the game. This includes when linebacker Jahad Woods ended the game with a strip-sack on Darnold late in the fourth quarter.

Moving to offense, Falk and running back Jamal Morrow both had strong games. Falk passed for 340 yards while completing 34-of-51 passes. Morrow rushed for 91 yards on just six carries.

Perhaps more impressive than the stats is how resilient Washington State was throughout the game. Here are some examples of what the Cougars had to deal with:

  • USC running back Ronald Jones ran for an 86-yard touchdown to give USC a 14-10 lead.
  • Falk was intercepted on Washington State’s own 3-yard-line (Cougars held them to a field goal).
  • Falk converted on a fourth-and-two play to lead a late touchdown drive.
  • Converting on fourth-and-13 to eventually get a go-ahead field goal (30-27 score).

These examples show that Washington State is not only talented, but also able to deal with pressure-packed moments.

Washington State Gains National Relevance

washington-state-winThis is the first time in the last 15 years that WSU has defeated the Trojans in Pullman. And it’s the first time in the last 25 years that they’ve beaten a top-5 team.

That said, it’s no surprise fans rushed the field following the upset victory over USC.

Now the question is where Washington State will rank in the AP top 25 poll. Most expect them to leap into the top 10 and become a talking point in the CFP race.

Let’s look ahead at Washington State’s remaining schedule before discussing their CFP chances:

Sat, Oct 7 @ Oregon (4-1)
Fri, Oct 13 @ Cal (3-2)
Sat, Oct 21 vs Colorado (3-2)
Sat, Oct 28 @ Arizona (2-2)
Sat, Nov 4 vs Stanford (3-2)
Sat, Nov 11 @ #20 Utah (4-0)
Sat, Nov 25 @ #6 Washington (5-0)

Mike Leach won’t want his squad celebrating too long. After all, they have some tough remaining games. And they’ll likely need to win every one if they’re going take the Pac-12 title and earn a CFP spot.

First off, they must travel to Eugene to face Oregon. The Ducks lost at Arizona State, but they’re still a tough team.

Washington State finishes with a gauntlet to end their Pac-12 season, including games vs. Stanford, at Utah, and at Washington.

The Huskies will present the biggest test because they’re in the national title picture. And the Cougars will certainly be an underdog in this contest.

Stanford will be a difficult game because they feature Brice Love, one of the nation’s best running backs. Love is currently on a blazing pace with 1,088 rushing yards on only 98 carries (11.1 YPC).

Utah is going to provide one more hurdle. The undefeated Utes own road wins over BYU and Arizona, and could make some noise in the Pac-12.

Realistically, though, Washington State could win all of their games leading up to the Washington contest. I think that the Huskies have a good chance to win at home. But the Cougars have proven that they’re capable of beating talented teams thanks to the USC victory.

This being said, don’t be surprised if they run the table and land their first-ever CFP bid.

Why Ohio State will Win the 2017 College Football Championship

ohio-state-football-odds-2017The Ohio State Buckeyes are coming off an 11-2 season where they made the College Football Playoff. But most don’t consider this a success for the Buckeyes after they were trounced 31-0 by the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals.

Despite the convincing loss, there’s reason to believe that Ohio State is a bonafide title contender once again. For starters, they’re ranked #2 in the AP Poll behind Alabama.

But there are several other reasons why Ohio State could win their second national title in the last four years. Let’s continue discussing why OSU is the team to beat this college football season.

1. Urban Meyer Wins Championships after Bowl Losses

Head coach Urban Meyer doesn’t take bowl game losses lightly. Instead, he goes out and wins national championships the following season.

Here are the two examples:

  • 2013 – Meyer’s Florida Gators lost 41-35 to the Michigan Wolverines in the 2008 Gator Bowl. Florida came back and beat the Oklahoma Sooners 24-14 in the national title game.
  • 2014 – Coming off a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2013 Orange Bowl, Ohio State won the 2014 championship over the Oregon Ducks by a score of 42-20.

Obviously this is a hard trend to keep up. But Meyer has won 2 of his 3 championships coming off a bowl loss the year before. Can he make it 3-0 with this trend in 2017?

2. The Defensive Line is Back and Better than Ever

The Buckeyes might very well have the nastiest defensive line in college this season. They return everybody from last year’s D-line, including Tyquan Lewis (8 sacks), Nick Bosa (5 sacks), Sam Hubbard (3.5 sacks), and Jalyn Holmes (2.0 sacks).

Overall, Ohio State brings back 6 of their top defensive players from last year. But it’s the line that continues drawing all of the attention.

According to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, this is the “most talented group” he’s ever coached at any level.

“We had a great player in Tampa in Gerald McCoy. Tremendous player, but that was one guy,” Schiano told ESPN. “I go back to my days in Miami in ’99 and 2000, and this is clearly a better group.”

Schiano might be right when looking at the pedigrees of these linemen. Lewis and Hubbard are expected to be first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Bosa, a sophomore, could very well go in the first round when he leaves OSU as well.

3. Senior J.T. Barrett is Back at QB

jt-barrett-playoffsOhio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has had an up-and-down career at Ohio State.

He started his sophomore year, until an injury prevented him from playing in the 2014 CPF. Barrett then battled with Cardale Jones for playing time his sophomore year. And he was heavily criticized after throwing for just 127 yards and two interceptions against Clemson last season.

But there’s nobody else that Meyer wants back in the saddle heading into a potential championship season. Barrett is a fifth-year senior who’s won 26 of the 30 games he’s started in his career. Two of these losses are to the Tigers. But Barrett won’t have to worry about Clemson unless they meet in the CPF again.

The key thing to focus on is that Ohio State returns four of their starting offensive linemen, the starting tight end, the top wide receiver, and the top running back.

It’s rare for a college team to return so much on offense without losing some underclassmen to the pros. But Ohio State has this perfect mix coming back. And Barrett will benefit greatly from the familiarity with this group.

4. Ohio State has a Favorable Schedule

Let’s look at the Buckeyes’ schedule for a moment before getting into this point:

  • Aug 31 – @ Indiana
  • Sept 9 – vs. Oklahoma
  • Sept 16 – vs. Army
  • Sept 23 – vs. UNLV
  • Sept 30 – @ Rutgers
  • Oct 7 – vs. Maryland
  • Oct 14 – @ Nebraska
  • Oct 28 – vs. Penn State
  • Nov 4 – @ Iowa
  • Nov 11 – vs. Michigan State
  • Nov 18 – vs. Illinois
  • Nov 25 – @ Michigan

This isn’t an easy schedule by any means. After all, the Buckeyes must play Penn State, Oklahoma, and Michigan – all of which are ranked in the top 11 to start the year. But let’s break this down further.

Ohio State plays the Sooners on September 9, which gives them nine days to prepare after the Indiana game. They play Penn State on October 28, which is coming off a bye week.

The toughest test may be their rivalry game with Michigan at Ann Arbor. But the Wolverines will be coming off a tough game against Wisconsin, whom, by the way, Ohio State doesn’t play this year. The schedule is set for a perfect run – the Buckeyes just need to execute.

5. This Team has Excellent Experience

ohio-state-football-oddsLast year didn’t end how OSU wanted it to. But this is a group with plenty of juniors and seniors who are coming off a CPF appearance.

They return almost all of their offensive starters, the defensive line, and a couple other defensive starters. The one area where Ohio State lacks experience is the secondary. But the good news is that they have a great D-line that will make the young secondary players’ job easier.

It also helps that the Buckeyes don’t face a gauntlet of top-tier quarterbacks. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield will be the best that they face during the regular season. But he’s a fringe top-10 QB.

In any case, Ohio State has enough strengths that they shouldn’t have to fret over their secondary too much. And these strengths should deliver another national title to Columbus.

2017 March Madness Betting: 2 Sure Picks, 3 Value Picks

wichita-state-bettingIf you’re betting March Madness futures, you know that Villanova, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Kansas are the most-heavily favored teams to win it all. But which of these schools is THE best bet to win the NCAA Tournament?

Beyond this, it’s also nice to have some value bets that can win you lots of money with for a small wager. That said, let’s look at two sure bets in 2017 March Madness, along with three teams that are undervalued in our GTBets futures.

2 Sure Bets

North Carolina; 27-7 record
No. 1 seed in South Regional; +600 odds

There’s absolutely no value to be had in betting on the Tar Heels to win. At +600 odds, they’re the biggest favorite at GTBets and are one of the top four seeds. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for the closest thing to a sure bet, then we suggest North Carolina. This team made it to the championship last year, where they were beaten by Villanova. Justin Jackson (18.1 PPG) and Joel Berry II (14.8 PPG) remember this as well as anybody, and they’re out for redemption. The Tar Heels have great size down low in Kennedy Meeks (12.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and Isaiah Hicks (12.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG). They also shoot a high overall percentage, meaning they’re less ripe for an upset than other top-tier teams.

Gonzaga Bulldogs; 32-1 record
No. 1 seed in West Regional; +850

gonzaga-2017-final-four-bettingMark Few’s teams have consistently made it to the tournament each year. However, the problem is that they’ve yet to advance beyond the Elite Eight, and they play in a weak conference. Based on these factors, we feel that Gonzaga is not only slightly undervalued, but also being overlooked as a legitimate championship team. We wrote about this team in depth a few weeks ago, with the jest being that this is Few’s best defensive squad, and they don’t rely on a Kelly Olynyk or Domantas Sabonis to carry them. Nigel Williams-Goss leads a balanced scoring effort with 16.9 PPG, while Przemek Karnowski (12.6 PPG), Jordan Matthews (10.4 PPG), Zach Collins (10.2 PPG), and Jonathan Williams (10.2 PPG) all make significant contributions.

3 Undervalued Teams

Louisville Cardinals; 24-8 record
No. 2 seed in Midwest Regional; +1400

donovan-mitchell-louisvilleIs it possible to be undervalued when you’re a No. 2 seed? Considering that Louisville is paying off at 14 to 1 odds, we think they might be given how wide open the Midwest Regional is. Kansas (+850) has gotten all the headlines and are picked far more than the Cardinals to make it out of this regional, but we don’t think they’re really this far apart. Louisville has good young players in Donovan Mitchell (15.7 PPG) and Deng Adel (11.9 PPG), while Quentin Snyder (12.7 PPG), Jaylen Johnson (8.1 PPG), and Mangok Mathiang (7.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG) provide scoring and strong leadership.

West Virginia Mountaineers; 26-8 record
No. 4 seed in West Regional; +3500

west-virginia-basketballThe Mountaineers aren’t getting much love at our sportsbook with +3500 odds of winning. And a big part of this is that they’ve lost eight games and didn’t win the Big-12. But they were competitive in all their losses, and have notable victories over Kansas and Baylor. We’re not saying that this makes West Virginia the favorite to cut down the nets in Phoenix this April. But if you’re looking for a team with moderate odds and a realistic chance of winning, then we like the Mountaineers. They’re set for a date with Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, provided both teams win their first two games.

Wichita State Shockers; 30-4 record
No. 10 seed in South Regional; +7500

The Shockers have advanced past the first round of the tournament in each of the past five seasons, including a Final Four trip in 2013, and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2015. Greg Marshall’s squad know how to win in March Madness, which is why we’re surprised that they’re only a No. 10 seed. Playing in the Missouri Valley Conference never helps their cause, but they competed against several teams from major conferences, including Louisville, who beat them 62-52. If Wichita State beats No. 7 Dayton in the first round – which we think they will – they’ll face No. 2 Kentucky in the second round. If they can win this game, then watch out for the Shockers!

Alabama vs. Clemson National Championship Betting

alabama-vs-clemson-championship-2017College football couldn’t have asked for a better matchup in the CFB National Championship game.

In a rematch of last year’s national championship, the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0) will take on the Clemson Tigers (13-1).

Last season’s game saw the Tide hold off Clemson 45-40, despite an outstanding performance from Tigers QB Deshaun Watson, who threw for 405 yards and rushed for another 73.

Watson is back again, but Alabama’s defense seems more dominant than last season. Which team will prevail? Let’s discuss both teams below and look at this game’s betting line.

GTBets.eu Line for Alabama vs. Clemson: Jan. 9 @ 20:00
Clemson  +6.5 (-110);  +205
Alabama  -6.5 (-110);  -240

Why Clemson Will Win

For a team that made the College Football Playoff, Clemson had a rocky season.

They started with a pair of 6-point wins against underdog Auburn and Troy teams; needed overtime to beat a mediocre NC State team; and lost to an 8-5 Pittsburgh squad in November.

But few are focusing on Clemson’s up-and-down play after a 31-0 dismantling of Ohio State in the semifinals. Suddenly, this resembles the same team that lost by just 5 points to Bama in the 2016 National Championship.

deshaun-watson-vs-alabamaWhat makes Clemson stand out is that, unlike the Tide, they’re strong on both sides of the ball. Their offense averaged 503 yards per game, with 328 through the air and 175 on the ground. Outside of a 19-13 win over Auburn in the first game, nobody has held the Tigers under 24 points in a game.

They also have the nation’s most-underrated defense, holding opponents to 17 points and 307 yards per game (ranked 7th and 8th nationally). The defense put on a show vs. the Buckeyes, holding them to just 215 total yards and forcing three turnovers.

Nobody is saying that Clemson’s defense is equal to Alabama’s talent. But it’s very good and capable of stopping Alabama’s offense.

Why Alabama Will Win

This looks like a classic case of offense vs. defense. The Tide rank No. 1 in both points allowed (11) and yardage allowed (244). Regarding the latter, Alabama only gives up 62 rushing yards a game, which isn’t Clemson’s strength to begin with.

If one team has a chance to dominate this contest, it’s definitely the Crimson Tide. Outside of a 48-43 victory over Ole Miss in their third game, Alabama has won by double digits in every game, while holding 12 of their 14 opponents to 16 points or less.

Many point to what Watson did to the Tide last year as evidence why Clemson will win. But this Alabama is better than last season’s version and will make life very difficult on the Tigers.

But the big question here is how their offense will perform. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin left last week to take the Florida Atlantic job, and former USC coach Steve Sarkisian was promoted to the OC position.

damien-harris-alabama“I wouldn’t have anybody in our organization that I didn’t have total faith, trust and confidence in that they would do a good job with our players,” Saban said.

Sarkisian is a very capable OC, but it’s still iffy replacing a coordinator one week out from the biggest game of the season.

Nevertheless, Alabama did score 39 points per game (14th nationally) with 247 yards on the ground (11th). They have a very balanced rushing attack that includes Damien Harris (1,016 rushing yards), Jalen Hurts (891), Bo Scarbrough (719), and Joshua Jacobs (548). If this crew can impose their will, then Clemson is in for a long game.

Final Prediction on Tigers vs. Tide

Regardless of how many opponents Alabama has dominated this season, all signs point to this being another close one. Before the semifinals, the Tide looked like a runaway favorite. Now, Clemson is playing their best football of the season.

jonathan-allen-crimson-tideOhio State was a quality opponent, but the Tigers made them look like an FCS school. This is the right time of the year to peak, and Clemson is on top of their game.

Alabama dominated the Washington Huskies 24-7, with defensive end Jonathan Allen saying afterward, “We could’ve played better.”

We have to agree and think that the Tide will perform better against Clemson. They should win this contest, but again, expect it to be close.

Final Score Prediction: Alabama wins 31-27, but Clemson covers the +6.5 spread.

Also note that we have the over/under at 50.5 (-110) on our GTBets line. Alabama’s defense is good, but we see the Tigers putting up enough points to see this contest reach 51 points or more.