Game to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Second-ranked Alabama is looking for its fourth national title in the past seven seasons when it faces top-ranked Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Glendale, Ariz. on Monday. The Crimson Tide reached the title game with a resounding 38-0 victory over Michigan State in the semifinals for their 11th straight victory. The Tigers have won 17 consecutive games dating back to last season and throttled Oklahoma in the second half of their semifinal en route to a 37-17 victory.
Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of Alabama has rushed for an SEC-record 2,061 yards to go with a conference-tying 25 rushing touchdowns while cementing himself as one of the top running backs in school and SEC history. Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and his multidimensional skills – 3,699 passing yards and 31 touchdowns, 1,032 rushing yards and 12 scores – concern Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. “Really is probably as fine a dual-threat quarterback as we’ve played against for a long, long time and certainly does an outstanding job of executing their offense, and there’s no question about the fact that he’s an outstanding leader as well, because you can see the way the players sort of rally around him,” Saban told reporters.
The status of Clemson junior defensive end Shaq Lawson remains unclear after he suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee during the semifinal victory over Oklahoma. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has stated that he is hopeful that Lawson (team-best 23.5 tackles for losses, including 10.5 sacks) would be able to play, but the NFL-bound Lawson didn’t sound as sure when he met with reporters Tuesday. “I probably wouldn’t be able to say I can play right now,” Lawson said. “I’ve just got to get comfortable with it. I’m not comfortable with it right now.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Alabama opened the national championship game favored by a converted touchdown. They have then bounced back and forth between -6.5 and -7 since. They are currently 6.5-pooint favorites. The total has been bet down three points since opening at 53.5 and now sits at 50.5. Check out the complete line history here.
Alabama – DB T. Brown (out Monday, suspension).
Clemson – S. Lawson (probable Monday, knee), WR D. Cain (out Monday, suspension), PK A. Lakip (out Monday, suspension), TE J. McCullough (out Monday, suspension).
WEATHER REPORT: Indoors.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “Sharps and squares are on both sides of spread, but there has been a tad bit more smart money on the underdog than the favorite. Currently, we have about 60 percent of the wagers on Alabama but the money handle is almost dead even. I don’t anticipate us moving off the -7 as kickoff approaches.The under has been hit extremely hard by the steam as we’re down a full three points from the open of 53. This might creep back up to 51 as the public gets more involved on Monday, but it won’t move past that.” – Scott Cooley of BookMaker.
ABOUT ALABAMA (13-1, 8-6 ATS, 5-9 O/U): Henry topped 100 yards nine times – and 200 on four occasions – and senior Kenyan Drake (407 yards) is back from a broken arm to provide a nice duo to help take pressure off senior quarterback Jake Coker (2,775 yards, 19 touchdowns). Freshman receiver Calvin Ridley pumped life into the passing game with 83 receptions with 1,031 yards and defensive stalwarts such as junior strong safety Eddie Jackson (team-high five interceptions, two returned for touchdowns), senior middle linebacker Reggie Ragland (team-best 97 tackles) and junior defensive Jonathan Allen (team-high 12 sacks) were among the players that pushed for a higher standard when the Crimson Tide were staggering in September. “I think the early loss to Ole Miss probably did a lot to jilt the attitude of this team in helping them do the things they needed to do, to be what they could be and follow and do the things that were necessary for them to be a good football team,” Saban said.
ABOUT CLEMSON (14-0, 7-7 ATS, 5-9 O/U): Swinney grew up in Alabama and played and coached for the Crimson Tide before finding his way to Clemson and finds humor in the irony that he must beat his beloved alma mater to win his first national crown as a head coach. “You go on with your life, and I’ve been at Clemson 13 years, and I’ve been trying to get back to the National Championship as a coach for 20-plus years now,” Swinney said on a teleconference call. “You know, to have the opportunity to be in my first national championship game as a coach, and it comes against Alabama, I just have to smile at God on that one.” Sophomore running back Wayne Gallman set a school-rushing mark with 1,482 yards to go with 12 touchdowns while the Lawson-led defense also features standouts in senior middle linebacker B.J. Goodson (team-best 98 tackles), junior cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (team-leading five interceptions) and junior defensive end Kevin Dodd (nine sacks).
* Alabama is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 vs. ACC.
* Clemson is 6-0 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games.
* Over is 8-2 in Alabama’s last 10 bowl games.
* Under is 10-3 in Tigers last 13 vs. a team with a winning record.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is giving the slight edge to the dog here, with 56 percent of wagers on Clemson. As for the total, 62 percent of wagers are on the over.