Clemson vs. Alabama, 01/09/17 - Expert Prediction
Written by: Benjamin Hayes
Clemson Tigers (13-1 SU, 7-7 ATS, 7-7 O/U) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0 SU, 10-4 ATS, 6-8 O/U)
Time and Place: Monday, Jan. 9, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla., 8pmET
Line: Alabama -7
Is this deja vu? Last year, Alabama beat Clemson 45-40 to win the National Championship. Clemson came back from being down 38-27 and 45-33 to make it a competitive game. But ultimately, Derrick Henry (36 carries for 158 yards and Jake Coker (16 for 25 for 335 yards, 2 TDs) were too much for the Tigers. Both teams appear to be better defensively this season, but we could have another shootout because Deshaun Watson is back after throwing for 405 yards and four TDs in that game.
No. 2 Clemson dominated a very good No. 3 Ohio State team, 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl from Arizona in the second semifinal game. No. 1 Alabama put on a defensive clinic against Washington, downing them 24-7 in the Peach Bowl from the Georgia Dome.
Clemson’s defense shines against Ohio State
Even though Clemson was a 3-point underdog, the fact that the Tigers defeated Ohio State was no shocker. But to shut out an Ohio State squad for the first time since 1993 and an Unrban Meyer squad for the first time every in 194 games is shocking. This is a Clemson defense that allowed 43 points at home to Pittsburgh in their only loss of the season (43-42), 36 points to Louisville at home in a win and 34 at Florida (37-34 win).
But on Saturday, they were completely dominant, forcing J.T. Barrett into just 127 passing yards and two interceptions. They held the Buckeyes to just nine first down and 215 total yards. The Clemson defensive line dominated the Ohio State offensive line, led by two sacks from defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and one by defensive end Clelin Ferrell. On the offensive end, Watson was reckless at times, throwing two interceptions but did have 259 passing yards and a TD (23-of-36). But he did have 57 yards rushing and two scores, while RB Wayne Gallman led the ground game with 85 yards and a score.
On the season, Clemson ranks 12th in the nation in total yards per game (503.4ypg) and seventh in passing yards (327.8ypg). They also rank 13th in points per game (39.5ppg). On defense, they rank eighth in total yards per game (306.9ypg) and 16th in passing yards per game (183.8ypg) allowed. They also rank seventh in points per game allowed (17.1ppg). Watson may have not won the Heisman Trophy but he’s arguably the best quarterback in the nation or at least most productive. He threw for 4,173 yards with 38 TDs, but also had 17 picks. He also has 581 yards rushing and eight scores. Gallman leads the team with 1,087 rushing yards and 16 TDs. Wide receiver Mike Williams is also having a great season with 90 catches for 1,267 yards and 10 TDs.
Saban replaces OC in biggest game of the year
Alabama is one of the few programs that can beat elite teams without giving their “A” game. Their defense was spectacular against Washington, holding them an anemic 194 total yards and just 44 rushing yards (1.5 yards per carry). Washington quarterback Jake Browning was running for his life the entire game, throwing for just 150 yards (20-of-38) with a TD and a pick. The Huskies actually scored the first touchdown of the game, going up 7-0 on a 16-yard pass from Browning to Dante Pettis. After that, the Crimson Tide outscored the Huskies, 24-0 as the defense adjusted in a big way. That included a 26-yard interception return from Ryan Anderson for a touchdown in the second quarter. Yet Washington was only down by 10 with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter until running back Bo Scarbrough ran it in from 68 yards out to ice the game for the Crimson Tide.
The Alabama offense was efficient but not explosive. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts completed just 7 of 14 for 57 yards and carried the ball 19 times for 50 yards. Scarbrough ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama had just 326 total yards with 269 of it on the ground. Ultimately, it’s all about defense for the Crimson Tide who lead the nation in total yards allowed per game (244.4ypg), in rushing defense (62.4ypg) and points allowed per game (11.4ppg). Offensively, it’s mainly about the run as they average 248.8 yards per game. Hurts can sling it when needed as he has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,620 yards with 21 TDs and nine picks. He also has 12 TDs on the ground with 891 yards. Damian Harris leads the Tide with 1,1013 yards rushing, while Scarbrough adds 719 yards.
College Football Trends:
- 6-0 ATS last 6 bowl games.
- 8-1 ATS last 9 neutral site games.
no key trends
This should be a classic considering both semifinals were blowouts. Watson has to keep the turnovers at a minimum because has a big edge as a passer of Hurts. He’ll have throw the ball and his ability to turn it up field gives them an edge because Browning didn’t have that issue.
Pick: Clemson +7
Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!
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