The last time Alabama met Clemson in the College Football Playoff, a semifinal game turned into a siege. Yards were at a premium in a matchup dominated by defenses and rushing attacks, and the final result was a 24-6 Crimson Tide victory about as elegant as a blow to the face.
What a contrast to the first two meetings between the rivals in the playoff, a pair of high-scoring national championship games defined by big plays and final-minute dramatics.
Their upcoming title bout Monday in Santa Clara, Calif., would seem an heir apparent to those showdowns, given the quality of the quarterbacks and the offenses on both sides.
CFP National Championship Betting Odds
In point-spread betting, the Crimson Tide are favored by 5.5 points, while the over/under betting total has been set at 59. Alabama is a -235 favorite in moneyline betting while Clemson will get you +175.
Looking at the personnel and their respective bodies of work, the hedge here is toward the Tigers and the over. Here’s why fans of college football betting should lean in that direction as well.
Clemson vs. Alabama Betting Tips
The Lawrence Factor
In the slugfest against Alabama last season, Clemson’s passing game was limited due to quarterback Kelly Bryant, who struggled to throw accurately downfield. That’s not the case now with freshman Trevor Lawrence, whose accuracy on the deep ball has allowed the Tigers to fully utilize all the offensive weapons at their disposal.
That was on vivid display in the semifinal rout of Notre Dame, which was stung by two early Clemson passing TDs and never recovered.
The Tigers have covered in seven of nine games with a healthy Lawrence under center — not including the close shave against Syracuse, which the Tigers won behind a backup after the freshman went out with an early head injury. In their two ATS losses, they still won by 21 and 26 points.
Granted, Clemson’s ACC schedule is hardly the most rigorous, but the Tigers last weekend still drilled the 10th-best defense in the nation. Behind Lawrence, this offense resembles that of Deshaun Watson, who quarterbacked the Tigers in the first two national title clashes with Alabama.
Those were 45-40 and 35-31 finals, and Clemson has the manpower to keep it close again.
Bama and the Spread
When Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took a knee in the victory formation at the Oklahoma 7, you could hear the groans from Las Vegas to Atlantic City and in all sports-betting hotbeds in between. The 14-point favorites won by 11 after allowing a late Sooners touchdown, and failed to cover for the third time in their last four games.
Alabama was once a fairly reliable cover, winning against the spread in seven of its first 10 games. Then came The Citadel, which was stunningly a tie at halftime, and where the 53.5-point favorites won by 33.
Two weeks later in the SEC title game, Tagovailoa struggled through his worst outing as a starter before going out with an ankle sprain, and the 12-point favorites escaped with a seven-point victory at Mississippi State.
Then there was the CFP semifinal against Oklahoma, where a 28-0 Alabama lead somehow turned into an ATS loss.
The Crimson Tide had faced big point spreads all year, to be sure — the Clemson game is their first single-digit line of the season — but as the opponents get tougher, Alabama isn’t creating the degree of separation it once did, and bettors taking the Tide and the points have felt the pain.
Top 2019 CFP Title Game Bets
Clemson (+5.5) over Alabama
Especially in the second half last week, Oklahoma found seams in Alabama’s defense that Clemson is sure to take note of. Against Notre Dame, the Tigers’ defensive front didn’t miss a beat even with All-American tackle Dexter Lawrence sitting out.
The Crimson Tide may well win; but given what we’ve seen of Clemson with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, everything points to another nail-biter with the national title on the line. Take Clemson and the points.
Both teams have different quarterbacks from the ones who started that semifinal game a season ago, and both have upgraded with Lawrence replacing Bryant and Tagovialoa replacing Jalen Hurts.
Although the Tigers and Tide have likely had analysts keeping an eye on each other all season, it’s a quick turnaround for the title game, and in such situations defenses are often the units playing catch-up. Bet the over.