Clemson vs. Alabama
January 10, 2016
By Brian Edwards
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Editor's note: Brian Edwards owns a 14-2 all-time record in national-title games documented here at VegasInsider.com. Since Oct. 29, Brian has cashed college football tickets at a 45-26 clip (63.4%, +16.9 units!), including a 13-8 record (62%) during the bowl season. His guaranteed plays are on a 19-9 roll (68%), so don't miss one last chance to cash in with tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
Alabama will be gunning for its fourth national title during Nick Saban’s nine-year tenure when it takes on Clemson in Monday’s College Football Playoff finals in Glendale, AZ.
As of Sunday afternoon, most betting shops had Alabama (13-1 straight up, 8-6 against the spread) installed as a seven-point favorite with a total of 50.5 points for ‘over/under’ wagers. The Tigers were +220 on the money line (risk $100 to win $220).
A few books had Alabama favored by 6.5, while many of the others at seven were forcing Clemson backers to lay a -120 price (leaving ‘Bama -7 for even money). For first-half wagers, most spots had the Crimson Tide as a 3.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 25.5 points.
Saban’s squad rolled past Michigan State 38-0 as a 10-point favorite in the CFP semifinals. It was the team’s 11th win in a row and its 10th by a margin of 13 points or more. Seven of ‘Bama’s 13 wins have come against teams that won their respective bowl games.
Jake Coker completed 25-of-30 passes for 286 yards and two TDs without an interception against the Spartans. Derrick Henry rushed 20 times for 75 yards and a pair of scores, while Kenyan Drake produced 60 rushing yards on just four totes.
Freshman WR Calvin Ridley hauled in eight receptions for 138 yards and two TDs. The Alabama defense pitched the shutout and limited Michigan State to only 239 yards of total offense.
Henry won the Heisman Trophy by rushing for 2,061 yards and 25 TDs while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Coker has seven TD passes without an interception in the Tide’s last four games. For the season, the transfer from Florida State has completed 67.1 percent of his throws for 2,775 yards with a 19/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Once viewed as the weak link for Saban’s team, Coker has become a strength down the stretch.
Much of that credit has to go to a dynamic set of wideouts led by Ridley, the true freshman who has lived up to his five-star billing and then some. Ridley has a team-best 83 receptions for 1,031 yards and seven TDs. ArDarius has 61 catches for 637 yards and four TDs.
Clemson (14-0 SU, 7-7 ATS) advanced to the finals by outscoring Oklahoma 21-0 in the second half of last week’s 37-17 win in Miami as a 3.5-point underdog. The Tigers hooked up money-line backers with a payout in the +160 range (paid $160 on $100 wagers).
Wayne Gallman led the way with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Deshaun Watson rushed 24 times for 145 yards and one TD. The sophomore quarterback threw for 187 yards and another TD.
Artavis Scott had five receptions for 63 yards, while Hunter Renfrow had four catches for 59 yards, including a 35-yard TD grab.
Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist and first-team All-American selection. The Gainesville, GA., product completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 3,704 yards with a 31/12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Watson also rushed for 1,032 yards and 12 TDs.
Alabama has the best defensive line in the country and likes to put helmets on the QB. However, Kirby Smart’s unit will face the most athletic signal caller it has seen since losing to Ole Miss and Chad Kelly back in Week 3. Watson’s ability to elude rushers and then make big plays with his legs will be pivotal.
Gallman rushed for a team-high 1,469 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The sophomore also has 19 catches for 165 yards and one TD.
When last year’s leading receiver Mike Williams went down with a season-ending neck injury in early September, Scott became Watson’s go-to option. Scott, another sophomore like Gallman and Watson, has 89 receptions for 868 yards and five TDs.
Charone Peake has 44 catches for 617 yards and five TDs, while Jordan Leggett has 35 catches for 447 yards and a team-high seven TDs. Deon Cain, who won’t play after being suspended prior to the win over OU, had 34 catches for 582 yards and five TDs.
Alabama has been a single-digit favorite four times this season, going 3-1 ATS. Meanwhile, Clemson’s only underdog spot of the season was in the win over the Sooners.
Clemson is ranked sixth in the nation in total defense (302.0 YPG), ninth against the pass, 18th versus the run and 16th in scoring (20.0 PPG).
Alabama’s defense has allowed more than 17 points just twice – 23 at Texas A&M and 43 vs. Ole Miss. This unit is No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense (13.4 PPG), No. 1 against the run (70.8 YPG), No. 18 versus the pass and second in total defense (256.7 YPG).
Senior LB Reggie Ragland is the catalyst for Alabama’s stop unit. The first-team All-American selection has 97 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, seven passes broken up, six QB hurries and two forced fumbles. Junior safety Eddie Jackson earned third-team All-American honors thanks to 43 tackles, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two passes broken up and five interceptions, including a pair of pick-sixes.
Clemson’s defense is led by Shaq Lawson, a first-team All-ACC selection who has 56 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five QB hurries. Junior LB Ben Boulware has 79 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, 10 QB hurries, seven passes broken up and three forced fumbles.
The ‘over’ is on a 7-3 run in Clemson’s last 10 games and is 8-6 overall. When it has had totals in the 50s, the ‘over’ has compiled a 6-3 mark. The Tigers’ games have averaged combined scores of 58.4 points per game.
The ‘under’ is 9-5 overall for the Tide, 8-3 in its last 11 outings. When it has had totals in the 50s, the ‘under’ cashed at a 4-3 rate in seven such instances. The Tide’s games have averaged combined scores of 47.7 PPG.
There are proposition bets galore all over the board. For instance, gamblers can wager on the player to score the first touchdown of the game.
For this prop, Henry is the +250 ‘chalk.’ The next-shortest odds belong to Ridley (7/1), Scott (10/1), Gallman (10/1), Watson (10/1) and Stewart (12/1). I think Gallman, Watson and Stewart are the best value options.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Ohio State has now lost nine players by early declaration for the NFL Draft.
-- Florida has lost safety Keanu Neal, DE Alex McCalister, CB Vernon Hargreaves III, WR DeMarcus Robinson and RB Kelvin Taylor early to the NFL Draft. The Gators are still awaiting word from safety Marcus Maye and LB Jarrad Davis, who is reportedly having second thoughts on his December statement that he would return for his senior campaign. The Gators have added Purdue QB transfer, Austin Appleby, and also has Luke Del Rio, a transfer from Oregon State (via Alabama) who sat out the 2015 campaign.
-- Tennessee has hired Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop as its new DC.
-- Texas A&M’s former five-star QBs have new homes. Kyle Allen has landed at Houston, while Kyler Murray is now an Oklahoma Sooner. The Aggies have parted ways with offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, replacing him with UCLA OC Noel Mazzone.
-- As expected, Arkansas RB Alex Collins is leaving school early for the NFL.
-- Florida State QB Sean Maguire will undergo ankle surgery and miss spring practice.
-- Ole Miss five-star signee QB Shea Patterson earned MVP honors at Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Game.
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