Clemson and Alabama will have their third straight rematch, but this time in a College Football Playoff semi-final matchup rather than the previous two title games. According to OddsShark, Alabama opens as a 1.5 favorite over Clemson, despite being the lowest ranked College Football Playoff team. Westgate has Alabama opening as just a one point favorite. The Tigers take on the Crimson Tide on New Year’s Day at 8:45 p.m. Eastern in New Orleans.
Both Clemson and Alabama are headed back to the College Football Playoff. The Tigers head into the postseason 12-1 as ACC champs, with their only loss coming to Syracuse in a game quarterback Kelly Bryant was not able to finish. Clemson had wins over six ranked opponents (at the time they played them): Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, NC State, South Carolina and Miami. Clemson has also performed well in Vegas, going 8-4-1 against the spread this season. The Tigers games have tended to hit the under on the point total, with eight games going under, and five game going over.
According to ESPN, the committee places the top team in the location that would be most advantageous to them. Hence, Clemson is headed to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl. It also works out for Alabama, as it is a manageable drive from Tuscaloosa.
Alabama was on the playoff bubble after their Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. The Crimson Tide made the College Football Playoff despite not winning the SEC, making it the first time in the history of the playoff that two teams from the same conference have a chance at the title. Alabama has wins over Florida State, LSU and Mississippi State this season. The Crimson Tide are 11-1 straight up, but just 5-7 against the spread.
Alabama is 13-4 all-time against Clemson, and has won 13 of their last 14 matchups. However, Clemson defeated Alabama last January for the national title.
The Crimson Tide are ranked No. 13 in points per game with 37.5 points, while Clemson ranks No. 28 with 33.2 points. Alabama leans on one of the best rushing attacks in nation, rushing for 265 yards per game. Where both teams really shine is on defense, Alabama has the top unit in the country, allowing only 12.5 points a game. Clemson ranks No. 4 allowing 13.6 points per game.
Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney told ESPN (via 247 Sports) his team is up for the challenge.
I’m excited. I think the [committee] obviously had a lot consider, but they put the four best teams in there. Alabama has been the standard for a long time and we’ve had some huge battles with them, but we’re excited. It’s been 25 years since I’ve been to the Sugar Bowl and that was with Alabama…It’s only fitting that, to advance to Atlanta, you’ve got a heavyweight matchup here vs. Alabama.