The two alpha teams in college football meet again in the 2018 National Championship game when No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson clash for the fourth consecutive season in the College Football Playoff. Alabama has been national champions in two of the past three years, and Clemson won the national title in 2016.
2019 College Football National Championship
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson Tigers (14-0)
Monday, January 7 – Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA 8:00pm ET (ESPN)
Betting Line: Alabama -5.5, Total 59.5
These are the two dominant teams in college football the past four years, as Alabama has gone 55-3 and Clemson 54-4. Alabama opened a 6.5-point favorite, and the line is down to 5.5 and even 5 in some locations. The support is justified for Clemson, who is playing better and has a powerful defense to compliment their strong, balanced offense that both runs and passes for at least 250 yards per game each.
‘Prolific’ barely begins to describe these two offenses, and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa was overpowering college football and the Heisman leader most of the season. Tagovailoa had 47 touchdown passes and just 4 interceptions leading Alabama to 47.5 points per game against 13 FBS opponents. However, against the two toughest defenses he faced, Tagovailoa passed for 164 yards and two of his interceptions against Georgia in the SEC Championship, and 164 yards against Mississippi State’s dominant defense as the Tide had a season-low 330 yards against the MSU Bulldogs.
While Clemson’s defense was dominant and features future NFL players along the defensive line, the Tigers did allow an average of 550 yards to two SEC teams while beating Texas A&M and South Carolina. Clemson allowed their two highest points totals in those 28-26 and 56-35 victories. And the Tigers will play the 2018 National Championship game without dominant defense tackle Dexter Lawrence, who was suspended for a failed drug test and also missed the Notre Dame College Football Playoff semifinal game.
But since freshman QB Trevor Lawrence took over the Clemson offense and directed them to greater efficiency, the Tigers defense also improved and allowed just 10.8 points per game since late September, including two dominant performances in the ACC Championship win over Pitt 42-10 followed by the impressive 30-3 obliteration of Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama’s defense is still strong, but not nearly as domineering as recent seasons. The Tide also suffered some attrition starting the season minus their top six defenders from last year on the back of their defense. As Alabama closed the season in the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff, they allowed at least 450 yards to both Georgia and Oklahoma. They rallied from behind to upend Georgia 35-28 and then let Oklahoma get untracked and come on late in a 45-34 victory.
Missed coverage, assignments and false starts were too common in the three games to close the season, and Clemson can make Alabama pay for mistakes. The Tigers beat 10 bowl teams while out-gaining them by an average of 212 yards per game. It should not be a surprise if Clemson out-gains Alabama and beats the Crimson Tide.
2018 National Championship Game Free Pick – Clemson Tigers +5.5 and +275 ML
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.