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

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. 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.