The College Football Playoff has been finalized with Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama being the four teams, ranked in that order.
At the start of the week, No. 4 Alabama is currently a slim 2-point favorite over No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl while No. 2 Oklahoma is right near a PK against No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
In Pasadena, it’s Oklahoma‘s prolific offensive attack ranked first in the nation in total yards per game, third in pass yards per game and fourth in points per game while averaging 367 yards through the air and 215 on the ground with Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield at the controls at QB facing a Georgia Bulldogs defense ranked No. 4 or better in all three of those same categories defensively.
That sets us up for what should be a phenomenal collision of one team’s strength against another team’s strength, which helps explain why the Bulldogs and Sooners line is right near a pick ‘em at this point in time. Mayfield’s numbers are off the charts but freshman Georgia QB Jake Fromm has been effective in his own right, too, tossing 21 TD’s and just 5 INT’s since taking over the starting role early in the season.
Oklahoma was better defensively against the run than they were against the pass and that should help the Sooners’ cause up against the strong RB tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Miche,l who combined to fuel the Georgia ground game to a 263 yards per game and 5.8 yards per rush clip. One major difference between these teams is their ATS records away from home, which is something that has to be taken into consideration during bowl season with so many games being contested in neutral field environments.
Georgia was 6-1 ATS in road games this season while Oklahoma was just 2-4 ATS in six games away from home. From a strength of schedule perspective, Oklahoma faced the 29th toughest schedule in the nation while Georgia faced the 37th most difficult schedule this season so it is not a massive difference there.
It will be the third consecutive season Clemson and Alabama will meet in the playoffs as they face off in the Sugar Bowl in what many are calling “the rubber match” between two of the most consistent and dominant programs over the last 5-plus years. The last two years they battled in the national championship game but this time it will be in the semifinals.
There is a whole lot to digest and dissect here in this game, none of which is whether or not Alabama deserved to get in to the playoff. That is up to another article to discuss. This is all about betting and pointspreads and the fact of the matter is whether you agree or not, Alabama is here and facing Clemson.
The Crimson Tide and Tigers played a couple thrillers in the title game in both 2016 and 2017 with Alabama knocking off Clemson by a score of 45-40 two years ago, and Clemson exacting some payback last season when Deshaun Watson capped off a game-winning TD drive in the dying seconds to beat Alabama, 35-31. Both of those games flew Over the posted totals of 50.5 and 51 respectively.
The total for this game is set at 47.5 which could be warranted. Alabama’s offense throughout most of this season lacked the explosiveness of last year’s Crimson Tide offense.The departure of Lane Kiffin as OC who took the FAU head coaching job in the offseason quite possibly had something to do with it. Alabama QB Jalen Hurts also didn’t necessarily improve on his accuracy on longer throws down the field either this season, which hindered this team offensively to a certain degree.
In four games for Alabama against SEC teams who made it to a bowl game, the Tide scored 27 (vs. Texas A&M), 24 (vs. LSU), 31 (vs. Mississippi State), and 14 (vs. Auburn) and none of those outputs came close to their scoring average for the season which was 39.1 points per game. Alabama piled up the yards and points against lower tier SEC squads and throughout their non-conference slate but when it came time to face some stiffer competition and better defenses, there was a bit of a drop-off with the Alabama offensive production. Alabama will be facing by far the best defense they’ve seen all year.
Clemson once again has an elite stop unit under head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables, which is fifth in the country in total yards allowed per game and second in the nation in total points allowed per game. The question mark for Clemson is how their offense and first year starting QB Kelly Bryant will handle the still very stout Alabama defense that is still one of the elite defensive units in college football.
Watson had the experience, savvy and poise to effectively move the football and do damage against Alabama in each of the past two seasons, and now the question is can Kelly Bryant with extra time to prepare show that same ability for Clemson this go around? Bryant did put forth one of his best and most efficient performances in Clemson’s dominant ACC Championship win against Miami on Saturday, completing 23-of-29 passes for 252 yards with a TD and no INT’s.
Alabama and Clemson have comparable ATS records in games away from home with Alabama at 2-3 ATS and Clemson at 3-2 ATS in five games on the road. There is a significant strength of schedule edge here in favor of Clemson. The Tigers faced the eighth most difficult schedule in college football while the Crimson Tide slot at 56th ranked toughest schedule in the country, according to Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule rankings.
All of the above provides more than enough food for thought on this college football Playoff betting table for bettors prior to heading to the window to lock in their wagers.