- January 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm #25250
Clemson has the one weapon that can expose Alabama in the National Championship
By Joe Fortenbaugh
Despite what any die-hard Michigan State supporter will tell you in the wake of their program’s 38-0 shellacking at the hands of Alabama just over a week ago, the Crimson Tide are, in fact, beatable.
The major problem incurred by the Spartans during their December 31 Cotton Bowl appearance in Dallas was that they lacked the personnel necessary to exploit Alabama’s most significant point of vulnerability.
But where Michigan State failed, the Tigers should find plenty of success because Clemson’s roster doesn’t contain the same personnel deficiencies that cost the Spartans yet another chance at a National Championship.
With just 15 regular season defeats suffered since Nick Saban’s 2007 arrival in Tuscaloosa, there are very few instances of failure demonstrated by the Crimson Tide with which an opponent can garner usable intelligence. Hell, the Tide have dropped just five regular season matchups over the last five seasons, shrinking the pool even further.
But if you study and analyze each of those five aforementioned losses, a glaring flaw becomes apparent. It’s the type of imperfection that a team like Michigan State could never hope to take advantage of, but a deficiency that a squad such as Clemson is more than capable of exploiting.
If you want to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide, you’re going to need an elusive, mobile quarterback who can make plays with his feet for 60 minutes.
Not exactly the Da Vinci Code-style of revelation capable of sending Tom Hanks scrambling forth to the next clue, but valuable information nonetheless. To begin, let’s take a look at what the opposing quarterback produced with his legs during each of Alabama’s last five regular season losses:
11/5/2011 vs. LSU and Jordan Jefferson: 11 carries, 43 yards
11/10/2012 vs. Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel: 18 carries, 92 yards
11/30/2013 at Auburn and Nick Marshall: 17 carries, 99 yards, 1 touchdown
10/4/2014 at Ole Miss and Bo Wallace: 11 carries, 32 yards
9/19/2015 vs. Ole Miss and Chad Kelly: 8 carries, 21 yards, 1 touchdown
In Alabama’s 58 regular season wins recorded since the start of 2011, the Crimson Tide defense surrendered an average of just 78.8 rushing yards per game. But in those five aforementioned defeats, Alabama permitted an average of 57.4 rushing yards per game to the opposing quarterbacks alone.
And what’s not included in those above totals are the successful downfield passing plays that came as a direct result of the opposing quarterback’s ability to avoid the rush, extend the play and buy a few extra seconds for his receivers to get open down the field.
To further this point, take note that Alabama has recorded at least one interception in 47 of its last 68 regular season games with an average of 1.04 interceptions registered per game over the last five years. But in those five aforementioned losses, the Crimson Tide recorded just two interceptions total for an average of 0.40 INTs per game.
Alabama’s interception totals plummet during losses to mobile quarterbacks because the Crimson Tide’s pass rush is far less effective than it is against statuesque pocket passers like Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who threw two interceptions in last week’s Cotton Bowl.
Enter Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson.
Watson, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore signal-caller out of Gainesville, Georgia, has rushed for over 105 yards in five of his last six contests and absolutely decimated the Oklahoma Sooners on the ground in the Orange Bowl last week with 145 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries while sustaining just one sack in the process.
In addition, Watson has tossed just five interceptions over his last eight outings entering Monday night’s National Championship matchup and has completed a staggering 68.2 percent of his passes through 14 games this season.
And while those numbers may not be enough to tickle your fancy, rest assured that Watson understands exactly what it takes to find success against this Alabama defense, as the Clemson quarterback has spent the last week watching tape of former Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel’s two outrageously successful performances against Nick Saban’s defensive unit.
Whether or not an elite performance from Watson will be enough to defeat the Crimson Tide won’t be known until late Monday night, but the fact remains that Clemson, unlike Michigan State, boasts the personnel necessary to accomplish such a rare feat.
CURRENT LINES FOR THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Side: Alabama Crimson Tide -7 (with some Alabama -6.5s out there)
Percentages: 66% on Alabama, 57% on the OVER
CONVERSATIONS WITH A BOOKMAKER
Jeff Sherman, assistant manager of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, this past week in an effort to gain a better understanding of what has been taking place in the market ever since the opening numbers hit the board.
Where did the Westgate open this game at?
Alabama -7 with a total of 53.5.
Did you take any sharp action early?
We didn’t take anything of note shortly after opening, but the first position the sharps supported was the Under, which forced us to move from 53.5 to its current position of 50.5.
Where do you see these lines closing?
I would think the numbers close in the vicinity of where they currently are, with Alabama -6.5 and some Alabama -7s out there. I also think the total has been driven to its low point and that the public may push it back up to the neighborhood of 51.5.
Which position is the public supporting?
Which position are the sharps supporting?
Who do you think wins and covers?
I would have to side with Clemson at +7 or higher. I don’t think there is any value in laying Alabama at its current price.
CONVERSATIONS WITH A SHARP
Chris Andrews, a former bookmaker and current handicapper, this past week in an effort to gain an additional perspective of the college football betting market for Monday night’s National Championship showdown between Alabama and Clemson.
Which positions will the sharps be supporting?
Lots of public money, and some sharp money as well, has come in on Alabama, but some pretty big outfit made a play on Clemson at +7 and some additional support has come in on that side as well. I believe that the sharper money will wind up on the underdog, but it will be close. Alabama has plenty of sharp bettors that like them and it’s easy to see why.
Which side do you see the public supporting?
The public will definitely be supporting Alabama.
What’s the key for Clemson to win this game?
Deshaun Watson will have to play huge for Clemson to win. I think the SEC was a bit weak at quarterback this season and Alabama has yet to face a quarterback with Watson’s ability. When Bama faced Ole Miss, Chad Kelly had a pretty solid day against the Crimson Tide defense. I realize that Alabama also had five turnovers in that contest, but Kelly was fantastic. I’m not sure how fair that comparison is, but it is something to hang your hat on if you like Clemson.
What’s the key for Alabama to win this game?
Alabama has to run the ball like they have all year and stop the run on defense. I like to use ratios to evaluate differentials and Bama’s is one of the best I have on record. If the Crimson Tide can maintain that, they will probably win.
Where do you see the side closing at?
I think it closes at Alabama -6.5.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PROPOSITIONS
Courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, here are some National Championship game propositions that caught our attention:
Total rushing yards by Deshaun Watson: 47.5 (-110 both ways)
Watson averaged 73.7 rushing yards per game this season and topped 48 rushing yards in nine of 14 contests. Granted, the Alabama defense is much faster and more disciplined than anything the Heisman finalist has faced this season, but given the Crimson Tide’s recent history against mobile quarterbacks, we’ll side with the Over here.
Total points scored by Clemson: 22.0 (-110 both ways)
The Tigers averaged 38.4 points per game this season and topped 22 points in every contest but one (20-17 win at Louisville on September 17). And yes, while Alabama’s defense is, again, better than anything Clemson has faced to date, take note that in the Crimson Tide’s last five regular season losses to mobile quarterbacks, Bama surrendered 23 or more points four times. We’ll back the Over in this spot.
Longest touchdown of the game: 49.5 yards (-110 both ways)
Just for fun, we’ll side with the Under here, as only two of the last seven National Championship games have featured a touchdown of 50 or more yards.
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT SEASON
While the city of Las Vegas has yet to release futures prices on next year’s college football championship, we asked Chris Andrews for some insight as to which teams may offer some value once those numbers hit the board.
“Everyone is already high on the Tennessee Volunteers and I can see why. But many of us, myself included, thought the Vols would be a little better this year. Stanford should be right in the mix again with Christian McCaffrey coming back and Alabama will probably be right there as well, but there’s money to be made on them. Plus, Ohio State and Michigan will be worth a look. If you are looking for a sleeper, Washington might be one. They have a long way to go, of course, but Petersen won with nothing this year. If you were buying stock, Washington would be a buy and hold. Oklahoma State might be one to watch, too, but I don’t know if they would have the ability to win it all.”January 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm #25251
Power Play Wins
Clemson +6.5January 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm #25252
100 Dime – Alabama -7January 11, 2016 at 2:04 pm #25255
UNDER 50.5 POINTS
Clemson vs. Alabama
8:30 p.m. ET
The Crimson Tide has all the attributes of a team that will play to a low-scoring game tonight. On offense, they lean on a strong running game with Heisman winner Derrick Henry leading the way and game-manager QB in Jake Coker. Defensively, they are as good as any team in the country allowing just 13.4 points per game after holding Michigan State scoreless for the first time in 196 games. Clemson has also trended to low-scoring affairs in this situation, going 39-70 to the under the last 10 years when facing a team with a winning record and 1-8 to the under when listed as an underdog on a neutral field. Go under!January 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm #25256
‘National Championship Game’
3* (151) Alabama -6.5January 11, 2016 at 2:48 pm #25258
2* Alabama -6.5 over Clemson 8:30 pm
UNDER 50.5 Alabama/ClemsonJanuary 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm #25259
Clemson +6.5January 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm #25260
AlabamaJanuary 11, 2016 at 2:50 pm #25261
ClemsonJanuary 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm #25262
alabama / clemson
UNDERJanuary 11, 2016 at 3:11 pm #25263
NCAAF ‘Computer Pick’
Clemson Tigers @ Alabama Crimson Tide
OVER 50.5January 11, 2016 at 3:28 pm #25265
AlabamaJanuary 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm #25266
30 Dimer is on the OVER in today’s National Championship between Alabama and Clemson.
The number is 50.5 at 11:30 a.m. easternJanuary 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm #25267
50 Dime Alabama-Clemson Over the total.
At 7:30 am eastern time, the total for this game stands at 50 1/2 points both in Vegas and offshore.January 11, 2016 at 3:40 pm #25268
75 Dime Clemson Tigers against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
As I release this play at 5:40am Pacific here in Vegas, the line on Clemson is +7 in Vegas and offshore. If your line is +6 1/2 or +7, I recommend buying the 1/2 point up and moving the line to +7 or +7 1/2.
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