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Alabama vs Clemson: 2018 CFP Odds and Betting Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide(11-1) @ Clemson Tigers(12-1)

  • Where: Mercedez-Benz Superdome. New Orleans, LA (Neutral Site)
  • When: January 1, 2018 8:45 pm EST
  • Spread: Alabama (-3) vs Clemson (+3)
  • Moneyline: Alabama (-145) vs Clemson (+125)
  • Over / Under: Over 47 (-110) Under 47 (-110)

Handicappers and pundits are leaning Alabama’s way. Tom Fornelli of CBS among others is predicting that this is Alabama’s turn. #1 seed Clemson has lost 3 points in the spread already. Are we missing something here?

Gee, we kind of remember Clemson’s offense wearing-out and embarrassing a vaunted ‘Bama defense in last year’s College Football Playoff Final. We kind of remember that the last time Alabama took the field, they lost to Auburn. What have the Tigers been up to lately? Oh, they clobbered Miami 38-3 in the ACC Championship Game. Oh, and they’re the defending national champs. Chew on that, Tide Nation!

But before we turn this into a Clemson pep rally, remember that often the smartest bet is the one you make even though everyone is telling you to. Alabama could very well beat Clemson in the Semifinal on Monday night. The good handicapper’s job is to figure out which of many likely scenarios are most likely to happen.

Sports media is still an SEC-biased business. But quarterbacks are the real focus of the popular early lean. 2 quarterbacks starred in the 2017 CFP Final. One graduated to the NFL. The other is named Jalen Hurts.

By the skin of the tusk

Do bettors think the Tide are healthier? Clemson HC Dabo Swinney has lost a kicker and a smattering of talent along his front-7. Nick Saban of Alabama remembers losing last year’s title bout in the 4th quarter, when thinned ranks on the 3-deep roster meant starters had to keep playing to avoid match-up problems. The “1-deep” soon ran out of gas.

That won’t be a problem this time around, save for a few bruises in the defensive backfield. Plenty of depth there.

Besides, Saban wants Clemson plays to finish with the ball behind the line of scrimmage, not in-between his safeties. As always, the guys up front will determine the Tide’s fate. Tiger QB Kelly Bryant is not the dynamic runner that his predecessor Deshaun Watson was. In fact, Bryant may not contribute to the ground game at all. If the Tide can find the pocket before Bryant completes his reads, it won’t be a pretty sight.

Hurts and company will put enough points on the board to ensure victory if the Alabama defense dominates. But the pass rush faltered weeks ago against Mississippi State, got by on athleticism against Mercer, and finally allowed Jarrett Stidham to dink-and-dunk his way to an Iron Bowl upset for Auburn. The ‘D doesn’t have the teeth from opening kickoff-onward that the 2016 unit did.

Tiger tactics

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Clemson can control as many as 3 quarters of this football game if they can play-call perfectly, mix the short pass with the outside running game, and not take penalties, giving a cautious Alabama offense few possessions with which to get revved-up. Tall order, eh? But it looks easy on the chalkboard. Everything probably does to Dabo.

The Tigers haven’t been seriously threatened since almost 2 months ago, when they rushed for 200+ yards and beat ranked NC State 38-31.

2 weeks before that was the October surprise at Syracuse, in which Clemson totally out-classed the underdog in team speed but suffered hard luck and bad breakdowns in a 3-point loss.

Swinney’s defending champs have earned the right to be a Vegas favorite for this game. It just didn’t happen. Statistically, the defense is comparable to Alabama’s after playing a slightly-tougher schedule. Bryant is clicking with Hunter Renfrow in big moments. Were it not for yards lost on QB take-downs and busted gadget-plays, Clemson would be averaging close to 6 yards per carry on the season.

All the ingredients are there, including an LB corps which has played well against explosive-running, sub-NFL level passing QBs like the Alabama sophomore.

Clemson vs Alabama: Winning Money Line Pick

At a press conference before departing the Carolinas, Coach Swinney told reporters that Alabama “just won’t go away.” Listen carefully. It sounds like the ultimate compliment to the Tide, but the master motivator is telling his team that it owns this scenario. They’re the ones who must be knocked off the mountain.

Clemson is getting out-hyped but they’re unlikely to be out-played. The dual-threat Hurts can hurt the Tigers…he’s proven that. But the changing odds make the best pick clear…it’s the Tigers. An evenly-matched game and possibly even a 51-55% chance for the ACC representative straight-up equals a sweet money line bet at (+125).

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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