Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers take a solid track record as an underdog into the most anticipated rematch in college football history.
Led by true freshman Jalen Hurts, the Alabama Crimson Tide are listed as 6.5-point favorites against the Tigers with a 50.5-point total in the College Football Playoff championship game matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Nick Saban’s undefeated juggernaut is 8-2 straight-up and 7-3 against the spread over its last 10 postseason games. Clemson, though, is 9-1 ATS in its last 10 games as a underdog of six or more points.
The Tigers, who covered when Alabama won 45-40 in last season’s national championship, are 6-1 SU in their last seven games after losing the previous game in a matchup.
For what it might be worth, Clemson’s conference, the ACC, is 8-3 SU in bowl games this season. The vaunted SEC that Alabama ruled is 6-6 SU in bowl games.
Clemson, 13-1 SU and 7-7 ATS, would seem to have an edge at quarterback – NFL-bound Watson against Hurts – and its defense can also handle run-first offenses, as evidenced by the semifinal shutout against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31.
The Tigers can be turnover-prone and Alabama is a master of the defensive touchdown, but with his supporting cast that includes RB Wayne Gallman, WR Mike Williams and TE Jordan Leggett, they will challenge the Crimson Tide. Of course, Alabama has far and away the stingiest run defense in the country (63.4 yards per game).
Alabama is 14-0 SU and 10-4 ATS and their depth, which comes to the fore on defense and special teams, should not be discounted. With a freshman QB and first-time play-caller Steve Sarkisian replacing the banished Lane Kiffin, one wonders how aggressive Alabama will be at giving WR ArDarius Stewart opportunities to catch deep passes against Clemson’s oft-suspect pass coverage.
The Crimson Tide wears out most defenses by staying on the ground with Hurts, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough and passing selectively. The Tigers, led on the defensive front by OLB Ben Boulware and DT Carlos Watkins, allow just 3.5 yards per rush. Scarbrough has a similar style to 2015 Heisman winner Derrick Henry, who proved too much for Clemson to handle in last year’s championship.
The Crimson Tide are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games as the favorite at sports betting sites. The total has gone under in four of Clemson’s last five games on a Monday. The total has gone under in four of Alabama’s last five games against teams with winning records.