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College Football Playoff National Championship Game Presented by AT&T featured betting preview: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0) v #2 Clemson Tigers (13-1); Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL; Tuesday, January 10, noon (AEDT) – line: Alabama -7
There are myriad storylines in play as Alabama and Clemson battle for the College Football Playoff title for the second year in a row. The guy calling plays for the top-ranked Crimson Tide will be doing so for the first time. When head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin parted ways last week (Kiffin has accepted a role as the new head coach at Florida Atlantic), it opened the opportunity for Steve Sarkisian to step back into the NCAAF spotlight. Sarkisian (pictured below), the former head coach at Washington and USC, was fired from his job with the Trojans in October 2015 amid an alleged substance abuse problem. He has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. QB Jalen Hurts has accounted for 34 scores (22 passing, 12 rushing) and is aiming to join Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway (1985) as the only true freshman quarterbacks to lead a team to a national title, but he passed for only 57 yards in the Crimson Tide’s 24-7 semi-final victory over Washington.
Bo Scarbrough is the squad’s third-leading rusher (719 yards) behind fellow sophomore Damien Harris (1013) and Hurts (891), but he’ll play a major role after rushing for two touchdowns and a Crimson Tide bowl-record 180 yards against the Huskies. Clemson’s defense certainly will be paying close attention to senior tight end O.J. Howard (41 catches, 489 yards, two touchdowns) after he made five catches for a career-best 208 yards and two TDs while winning Offensive MVP honours in last year’s national title game. Alabama have a pair of elite WRs and one of the nation’s best tight ends. ArDarius Stewart has brought down 52 catches for 816 yards and seven TDs, while Calvin Ridley has 66 receptions for 740 yards and seven TDs. Senior TE O.J. Howard has 41 catches for 489 yards and two TDs. Alabama are ranked no. 1 in the country in total defense, scoring (11.4 PPG) and rush defense. They’re ranked 12th versus the pass. The Tide have held 12 of their 14 foes to 16 points or fewer.
Watson passed for 259 yards and one touchdown while adding two rushing scores in Clemson’s 31-0 rout of Ohio State … he has a major advantage in experience over counterpart Jalen Hurts
Alabama are attempting to record their 27th successive victory and fifth national championship in 10 years while Clemson are pursuing a second national title and first since 1981. Last year, the Crimson Tide prevailed 45-40 despite a huge game by Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (405 yards passing, 73 rushing). Watson passed for 259 yards and one touchdown while adding two rushing scores in Clemson’s 31-0 rout of Ohio State in the CFP semi-finals, and he has a major advantage in experience over counterpart Jalen Hurts. Watson, who finished second in this season’s Heisman Trophy balloting and third in 2015, has passed for 4173 yards and 38 touchdowns this campaign but also is prone to miscues, as evidenced by his 17 interceptions. Watson threw three or more TD passes on seven occasions and topped 300 yards six times while anchoring a powerful offense that averaged 39.5 points and scored more than 40 points seven times. Juniors Mike Williams (90 receptions, 1,67 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Artavis Scott (73 catches) form a potent one-two receiving combo.
Junior running back Wayne Gallman rushed for 1087 yards and 16 scores. The Tigers’ defense allows averages of 17.1 points and 306.9 yards per game but features senior trio weak-side linebacker Ben Boulware (team-best 121 tackles), defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (team-high 10.5 sacks) and strong safety Jadar Johnson (team-leading five interceptions). Clemson’s defense held Ohio State to a season-low 215 yards of total offense. The Tigers forced three turnovers, including interceptions by Van Smith and Cordrea Tankersley. Smith returned his pick 86 yards. Clemson might have the nation’s best defensive coordinator in Brent Venables. The best move of Dabo Swinney’s entire nine-year tenure at Clemson was plucking Venables away from Oklahoma after Geno Smith and West Virginia hung a 70-spot on the Tigers at the Orange Bowl five years ago. He returned only four starters from last year’s unit, and this year’s defense has been even better. The Tigers are eighth in the nation in total defense, seventh in scoring (17.1 points per game), 16th against the pass and 19th versus the run.
Confirmed betting (card finalised)
Clemson v Alabama +50.5 (two units @ $1.88)
Clemson +7 v Alabama (one unit @ $1.95)
Most recent results: 3-0-1, +1.03 units; overall record: 121-7-99, +16.4 units
USC Trojans -7.5 v Penn State Nittany Lions (two units @ $2.01) LOSE (52-49)
Western Michigan Broncos v Wisconsin Badgers -54 (one unit @ $1.95) WIN (16-24)
Auburn Tigers v Oklahoma Sooners -66.5 (one unit @ $1.93) WIN (19-35)
Iowa Hawkeyes v Florida Gators -3 (one unit @ $2.15) WIN (3-30)
• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT); prices with thanks to Ladbrokes (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.