Not sure if you heard, but Alabama and Clemson played epic national championship games each of the past two college football seasons. It’s a rubber match on New Year’s Day between the No. 1 Tigers and No. 4 Tide as this time they meet for a trip to the title game in a Sugar Bowl national semifinal. Alabama, despite being the lowest seed in the semifinals, is the betting favorite at our online sportsbook.
2017 Sugar Bowl Betting Preview: Alabama vs. Clemson
When: Monday, 8:45 PM ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Radio: 102.9 FM (Alabama) / 105.5 FM (Clemson)
Opening Sugar Bowl Lines: Bama -2 (47)
- Mostly Cloudy: 4°C/39°F
- Humidity: 77%
- Precipitation: 13%
- Wind: 18 mph NNE
- Cloud Cover: 64%
- Type of Stadium: N/A
Clemson is 22-19 in bowl games and is appearing in the postseason for a 13th straight season. Alabama is 38-25-3 in bowl games and is trying to win its fifth national championship in nine seasons.
Back in January, Clemson upset No. 1 Alabama 35-31 for the school’s first national title since 1981. Deshaun Watson connected on a 2-yard touchdown toss to Hunter Renfrow with just a second left in one of the greatest games in NCAA history. Playing in his final college game, Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns against the nation’s top defense. Bama led 24-14 entering the fourth.
In the title game following the 2015 season, Bama won 45-40. Derrick Henry, O.J. Howard and Kenyan Drake all had long touchdowns – they are all in the NFL now. Nick Saban called for an onside kick with 10:34 left in the fourth and the game tied 24-24. It worked and changed momentum. Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in the loss.
This year’s game will mark the second time the Sugar Bowl has hosted a playoff semifinal. Following the 2014 season, eventual national champion Ohio State defeated Alabama, 42-35.
Why Bet on Alabama?
Alabama made it into the playoff as an at-large selection after losing to Auburn in the regular-season finale, denying the Crimson Tide an opportunity to win the SEC championship and control their own destiny.
At least Tide don’t have to deal with Watson any longer! That’s a huge break in and of itself. Good thing, too, because Alabama will be short-handed on defense for the game as freshman linebacker Dylan Moses, senior LB Shaun Dion Hamilton and senior safety Hootie Jones are all out. That defense is again one of the best in the nation but started showing cracks late. After allowing none of its first six SEC opponents to score more than 19 points, Alabama’s defense allowed at least 24 points to Mississippi State and Auburn to close the regular season. It was the first time since 2014 the Tide at least 20 points in back-to-back games against conference competition.
RB Damien Harris leads the team with 906 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball and averages 8.2 yards per carry. But while the Alabama offense has dominated up against the many inferior opponents on its schedule, it sputtered this year against top-level defenses, as in wins against Florida State and LSU and in the loss to rival Auburn.
Tide QB Jalen Hurts only has thrown one interception all season while Clemson’s Kelly Bryant has six. In a game this close, an interception can make the difference. The Crimson Tide will be making a record 16th appearance in the Sugar Bowl; Alabama’s eight wins in the game is also a record.
Neither team has had much success on kicks of 40-plus yards this year, with the Tide 5-of-11 with a long of 48 and Clemson’s Alex Spence making 1-of-3 with a long of 46 yards.
Why Bet on Clemson?
Clemson is making just its second appearance in the Sugar Bowl — the first was a 7-0 loss to LSU in the 1959 game.
The emergence of Kelly Bryant has helped push the Tigers back into the College Football Playoff. His numbers aren’t as eye-popping as Watson, but he’s still completing more than 67 percent of his passes for 2,678 yards. With Watson at QB, Mike Williams and Artavis Scott accounted for nearly 40 percent of Clemson’s receiving targets. This year, 11 players have been targeted at least 10 times, and only one more than 70 times.
The Watson-led Tigers ran up over 500 offensive yards – over 400-plus in the passing game alone – in each of the first two games vs. the Tide. This season, Clemson has topped the 500-yard mark only once versus a Power 5 team (613 at Louisville), while Alabama has surrendered only 400-plus yards once as well (408, in a 26-14 loss at Auburn).
Alabama leads the semifinalists in scoring margin vs. FBS opponents (25 PPG; Clemson’s 19.7), but vs. better competition, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers outclass Saban’s Crimson Tide, averaging a 19-point margin vs. AP Top 25 teams to Alabama’s 3-point margin.
The Tigers undoubtedly have the better resume due to schedule. Bama’s was rather weak. Their opponents from the SEC East, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, happened to be the two worst teams in the conference and their huge season opener against FSU became tarnished as the Seminoles skidded to a 6-6 record. Clemson has three wins (Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech) better than any Alabama has earned (LSU).
The Crimson Tide average 265 rushing yards per game now, but the Tigers counter by allowing 17 less rushing yards this season (112.85) than last and have given up 150 yards or less in 10 of 13 games (under 100 in five games).
Latest Sugar Bowl Betting Trends
- Alabama is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 games
- Alabama is 23-2 SU in its last 25 games
- Clemson is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games
- Clemson is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Expert Prediction & 2017 Sugar Bowl Pick
Alabama has lost its last three Sugar Bowls (Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio State). That banged-up defense will be the difference. Take Clemson and the points in the rubber match.