The conclusion of the college football playoff and season, the National Championship, is finally here. It’s a different year but the same teams are in the main event. Clemson and Alabama will do it all over again, following a 45-40 win for the Crimson Tide in the 2016 National Championship. Clemson scored late to make the score look better, a backdoor to help Clemson backers out and frustrate those who had Alabama. Support for each side was fairly split then, and it looks like the public is torn on who to back this year as well. By kickoff time, I could see the money coming in 50/50.
In my view, both teams are better than last season. Alabama have gotten a big lift from their freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts. Conversely, on the other side, Clemson has an extra year of experience out of the ultra-talented Deshaun Watson. Watson is in his final year and looking towards the NFL Draft. This is such a big spot for him in more than one way.
This is of course the National Championship, so that much is a given why this is a big game. But here Watson is, on the biggest stage of all in college football against the best defense in college football. The scouts will be watching, and with a strong performance, Watson will be able to elevate his draft stock significantly.
The pressure is on for Watson to beat the Crimson Tide, and the size of his wallet is going to be dictated by this game. You may laugh at one performance, but this one performance will do wonders for him if it’s a great start. Remember JaMarcus Russell, all he needed is one monster performance in the Sugar Bowl to catapult him to the front of the 1st round.
Watson has had more than one monster start though, let’s give him that much. He has some wheels and can get out of trouble in the pocket, but in the NFL, he’s going to have to depend on his arm a little more. Against the Alabama defense, he’s going to need a quality performance out of his arm and legs. The Crimson Tide have proven to struggle against dual-threat quarterbacks. Look no further than the 40 points Clemson scored on them. I’m looking forward to this rematch in the National Championship. Let’s get to the pick and find a winner.
Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide National Championship Betting Odds:
vs. Alabama -6.5(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Clemson vs. Alabama Pick:
I said earlier here that Clemson are better than they were last year. To be more specific, I should say that they’ve been better over the second-half of the season. The opening couple of months was a different story, as the Tigers dodged several bullets to make it to the playoff. A couple more plays out of Troy, a converted chip-shot for North Carolina State and Clemson would not be here right now. Florida State came close too, but Clemson were able to edge them out by a score of 37-34. Clemson’s best game this season came in the semifinal against Ohio State, a 31-0 drubbing that left zero room for the Buckeyes’ offense to operate. When the Clemson defense wants to play, they can be very good.
I was not entirely impressed by the Alabama offense last week against a good defense. Note that their one touchdown came off a pick-6 in the 24-7 win against Washington. Hurts finished with only 57 yards passing, but Bo Scarbrough carved the Huskies up for 180 yards on the ground. Clemson are 22nd defending the run, allowing an average of 125.8 yards per game on the ground. A pretty solid stat for a team who will need to come up strong against the run. The Buckeyes’ leading rusher, Curtis Samuel, was stymied for just 67 yards on the ground. J.T. Barrett threw 2 interceptions along with 127 yards passing. Ohio State finished 14th in rushing in the country, so stopping their running attack was no joke.
They’ll have a load to stop again against Alabama. The Crimson Tide are 11th in the nation, so a spot ahead of the Buckeyes at running the football. Alabama will be implementing a new offensive coordinator in the game, former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. Lane Kiffen departed for the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic, so Sarkisian is jumping in at the last minute. We’ll see how this impacts the freshman Jalen Hurts. Hurts had an impactful year as a freshman, and will looking to be the first true freshman to win a National Championship. He has passed for 22 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, parlayed with 891 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
Fantastic numbers for the young freshman. He will go up against the proven Deshaun Watson. In his third season at Clemson, Watson has thrown 37 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. His ability to run, though, is what might worry Alabama. The Clemson offense was rolling down the stretch, averaging 43.3 points per game in their final six games. I think the best has been left for last. I expect this to be a thoroughly entertaining game against the best teams in college football. Watson is going to get a foot-up on the rest of the NFL prospects, with a quality showing against Alabama in the National Championship. I see a game decided by a few points.
PICK: CLEMSON +6.5 (-110)