Alabama and Clemson split their first two meetings in the College Football Playoff, and meet for a rubber match in the Sugar Bowl Monday night at the Superdome (8:45 pm ET, ESPN). The Tide is again favored, but the Tigers covered both previous meetings. Who are we going with for our free Sugar Bowl pick?
Alabama opened as a two-point favorite at most books, with an over/under of 47. As of about 24 hours before kickoff most shops had bumped the Tide to -3.
Alabama (11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) started 11-0 this season, the best wins probably coming against Florida State, LSU and Mississippi State. The Tide then fell upset victim at Auburn in the Iron Bowl 26-14 and missed out on the SEC championship game. But thanks to reputation and the threat of Coach Saban’s wrath Alabama received an invitation to this CFP.
The Tide led the Tigers in that season finale 14-13 well into the third quarter but gave up the last 13 points of the game. Alabama got outgained by Auburn 408-379 and cost itself dearly when a bobbled snap on a short field-goal attempt in the third quarter led directly to a Tigers touchdown.
Still, on the season the Tide outgained 10 of their 12 opponents, and outrushed 11 of 12 foes.
Clemson (12-1 SU, 8-4-1 ATS) started 6-0 this season, with wins over Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech. The Tigers then fell upset victims themselves, falling on a Friday night up at Syracuse. But Clemson won its last five games to win the ACC Atlantic, then bombed Miami in the ACC championship game 38-3.
The Tigers led the Hurricanes 14-0 after one quarter and 38-0 in the third, on their way toward an easy cover at -12. Clemson outgained Miami 331-214, so on the season the Tigers outgained 10 of their 13 opponents and outrushed 11 of their 13 foes.
These teams played two common opponents this season; Alabama beat Florida State back in the season opener 24-7 but lost to Auburn in the season finale 26-14, while the Tigers beat those other Tigers early 14-6 and defeated the Seminoles in November 31-14.
By the Numbers
Alabama ranks 17th in the nation this season in total offense at 471 yards per game and No. 1 in total defense at 259 YPG, while playing what Sagarin at USAToday.com ranks as the 57th-toughest schedule.
Clemson ranks 30th in offense at 449 YPG and No. 5 in defense at 278 YPG, while playing the No. 7 schedule.
Free College Football Sugar Bowl Pick
Alabama strikes fear in almost every foe, but not Clemson. We’re taking the Tigers here, for the win on the moneyline.