Despite being the fourth seed in this year’s College Football Playoffs, the Alabama Crimson Tide are favored to beat the defending national champion Clemson Tigers when they square off in the 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Las Vegas college bowl game oddsmakers have enstalled Bama as one-fielgoal favorites over Clemson. The over/under is 47.
Alabama Vs Clemson Sugar Bowl Line & Expert Pick
Alabama (11-1) vs. Clemson (12-1)
When: Monday, January 1, 2018 at 8:45 PM ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Stream: Watch ESPN
NCAAF Odds: Alabama -3
Top-seeded Clemson and fourth-seeded Alabama are facing each other in the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season. The Crimson Tide managed to beat the Tigers in the national title game two seasons ago before the Deshaun Watson led Tigers extracted some revenge by winning last season’s national championship with a game-winning drive on the final series no less. Now, the Tide are surprising favorites to beat Clemson despite being the fourth and final team to have their ticket punched for this season’s playoffs.
"I think it’s only fitting that to have a chance to advance to Atlanta (for the final), you’ve got a heavyweight matchup here with Clemson and Alabama," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney told reporters.
Alabama had a shot at a perfect season until losing their regular season finale against Auburn 26-14 in a game that probably wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. Still, there’s plenty of reason to believe Nick Saban’s team can beat anyone, Clemson included. Alabama ranked 17th in total offense, eighth in rushing and ninth in scoring (39.1 ppg), even though there’s the concern that they finished just 83rd in passing.
Running back Damien Harris rushed for a team-high 901 yards and 11 touchdowns while dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts finished second in rushing yards with 768 and eight touchdowns, but the Tide didn’t throw the ball often enough to keep a team like Auburn honest and that could be an issue against another elite defensive team like Clemson.
Still, the Tide, led by first-team All-American strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, are absolute monsters defensively as they finished the regular season ranked second in total defense, sixth against the pass, third against the run and first in points allowed (11.5 ppg).
Top-ranked Clemson enters the playoffs riding the wave of a six-game winning streak after suffering their only loss of the season against Syracuse in Week 7. The Tigers lost to the Orange 27-24 that day, but junior quarterback Kelly Bryant missed the second half of that contest after getting injured.
The Tigers were solid across the board offensively as they ranked 30th in total offense, 53rd in passing, 32nd in rushing and 20th in scoring (35.4 ppg). While no one (including me) thought that Bryant could carry Clemson to the same heights that Deshaun Watson did, here the Tigers are, one step away from their third straight appearance in the national championship.
While Bryant clearly isn’t the same caliber of passer that Watson was, he’s been phenomenal running the ball, not to mention the fact that freshman running back Travis Etienne looks like a more gifted rusher than former running back Wayne Gallman. Etienne rushed for a team-high 744 yards and 13 touchdowns and just got better as the season wore on while Bryant finished with 646 rushing yards and an impressive 11 rushing scores.
"The quarterback now may be a better runner, if that’s possible, than the guy we played the last two years," Saban said at a press conference.
However, where this game really could be won by the Tigers is with their phenomenal defense. Clemson ranked fifth in total defense, seventh against the pass, 12th against the run and second in points allowed (12.8 ppg). The Tigers have a first-team All-American in defensive end Clelin Ferrell and two second-team All-Americans in junior defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and senior linebacker Dorian O’Daniel
Maybe it’s me, but first of all, I’m really surprised that Alabama is favored to beat Clemson in this contest after seeing the entire bodies of work from these two teams. Both teams are really elite on both sides of the ball and that tells me this game is going to come down to which quarterback and which offense can make a few more plays than the other – and for me – that is the Clemson Tigers and Kelly Bryant.
Despite all off their excellence, college football bettors need to keep in mind that Alabama really struggles to cover the chalk once the postseason rolls around. Not only are the Crimson Tide just 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games overall, but they are also just 3-14 ATS in their last 17 games following a straight up loss, 0-4 ATS in their L/4 games against a team with a winning record and a winless 0-4 ATS in their last four games in the month of January.
On the flip side of the coin, Clemson has gone 7-0 ATS in their last 7 bowl games, an even more impressive 8-0 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games and 10-1 ATS in their last 11 neutral site games.
No coach in college football has been able to solve the complex problem that is a Nick Saban-led team, but Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has! Clemson is the top-ranked team in all the land for a reason – and they’ll show why by beating Alabama in the AllState Sugar Bowl to cover the chalk as surprising underdogs!
Sugar Bowl Pick: Clemson +3