ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (11-1)
vs. CLEMSON TIGERS (12-1)
Allstate Sugar Bowl Ė Semifinal - Superdome Ė New Orleans, LA
Kickoff: Monday, 8:45 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -3.0, Total: 47.0
#4 Alabama will be looking for revenge against #1 Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
Last year, Clemson shocked the world by defeating Alabama to win the championship. The Tigers were 6.5-point underdogs in that game, but they ended up coming away with a 35-31 victory. Itíll now be Clemson that is the higher ranked team in this matchup, as the Tigers had a remarkable regular season and ended up being the College Football Playoffís top team. Alabama, meanwhile, just barely snuck in, but that doesnít mean that this is a worse football team. In fact, the Crimson Tide are still favored in this game and they know that they are as talented as any program in the country. That is why this game is expected to be so good, as both truly have a claim to be considered the best and they know whatís on the line here. One trend that favors Alabama in this game is the fact that the team is 28-14 ATS in road games versus defenses that allow 3.25 or fewer rushing yards per carry since 1992. The Tide also happen to be 15-4 ATS after failing to cover in three of their previous four games under head coach Nick Saban. Clemson, however, is an impressive 7-0 ATS when playing away from home against teams that allow 120 or fewer rushing yards per game over the past three seasons.
If Alabama is going to find a way to beat Clemson and advance to the championship then the team is going to need QB Jalen Hurts to make some plays. Hurts had a solid year for the Crimson Tide, throwing for 1,940 yards with 15 touchdowns and only one interception and also rushing for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. He did, however, struggle in Alabamaís 26-14 loss to Auburn. Hurts was just 12-for-22 for one touchdown in that game, and heíll need to be more efficient against Clemson here. He also turned the ball over against Auburn, and that is not something that he canít afford to do very often against Clemson. Still, the team is going to need Hurts to take some chances in this one. If he is just dumping the ball off for short gains then this Crimson Tide offense will be too predictable. They need Hurts to take a few shots down the field in order to take pressure off of the running game. WR Calvin Ridley is as good of a receiver as there is in the nation, so Hurts should do what he can to get him involved. When Alabama does run, itíll be mostly Hurts, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough that are carrying the rock. Harris is capable of doing a little bit of everything out of the backfield, but Scarbrough is the physical, between-the-tackles back. Last year, he rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns on only 16 carries against Clemson. Nick Saban might want to give him a chance to repeat that performance this year. As for the Crimson Tide defense, the goal will be simple. If Alabama wants to win this game then the team canít allow Clemson to make too many big plays. That is how the Tigers win games, so the Tide must remain focused.
Clemson is going to be fueled by the fact that Alabama is somehow favored in this game, as the Tigers are the top team in the country and definitely will be feeling disrespected here. This defense has been an absolute force this season, and they also happen to be playing their best at the right time. In Clemsonís two games heading into this one, the team allowed just 13 points total against ranked South Carolina and Miami teams. If the Tigers can slow down the Crimson Tide rushing game then thereís a chance that they completely shut down the Alabama offense as well. As for the Tigers offense, the team will need QB Kelly Bryant to make some plays in this one. Bryant is nowhere near as good as Deshaun Watson was for this Clemson team, but he does some similar things. Bryant is able to beat teams with both his arm and his legs, which is something that has given Alabama trouble over the years. Bryant does, however, tend to make some mistakes, and he canít afford to turn the ball over against Alabama in this one. If he does it more than once then itíd be hard to imagine the Tigers winning. Bryant has weapons in the offense that can make plays, though. Those would be WR Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud. If he can get them the ball in the right spots then Clemson is going to have a shot here.