Many college football fans are angry that No. 4 Alabama got into the College Football Playoff despite losing its final regular-season game to Auburn and not even winning its own division. Alabama is the 1st team to reach the College Football Playoff without multiple wins against teams in the top 20 of the final ranking. Ohio State had 3 such wins and USC had 2. In the past two playoffs, the No. 4 seed has been routed in the national semifinals. Here are three other reasons to bet against the Tide to win it all. They’re +180 odds favorites to win the National Championship.
3 Reasons to Bet Against Alabama to Win College Football Playoff
Alabama to meet Clemson in CFP Semfinal at @SugarBowlNola ‼️
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) December 3, 2017
Will Tide Miss Hootie?
There is good injury news for Alabama. Linebackers Mack Wilson, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis have been banged up. They all played in the Iron Bowl, but they weren’t 100 percent. They should be or really close to it by Jan. 1. In addition, star defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) and left guard Ross Pierschbacher (ankle) should also have time to heal, as well as any other players who were dealing with nagging injuries.
The bad news is that Alabama will be without starting safety Hootie Jones, who injured his knee against Auburn. Jones was a staple at one of the safety spots in Alabama’s nickel and dime packages. Jones is fourth on the team with 53 tackles and has two interceptions. Redshirt sophomore Deionte Thompson stepped in at safety after Jones got hurt against Auburn and is probably the most likely to start in Jones’ place against Clemson. Thompson has 18 tackles and an interception this season.
With Jones out, Clemson will look to attack Alabama’s secondary with a passing offense that ranks No. 52 in the nation, averaging 244.1 yards per game through the air. The Tigers are led by junior quarterback Kelly Bryant, who has 2,678 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions to go with 646 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Alabama has struggled recently against mobile quarterbacks, allowing Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham to rush for 51 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald to rush for 66 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Bryant is a better rusher than both those quarterbacks.
Alabama Passing Game, Third Downs Questionable
While Tide QB Jalen Hurts is a dual-threat, he’s not an accurate passer. Bama ranked No. 9 in the SEC and No. 86 in the nation in passing offense despite a superstar receiver in Calvin Ridley, who did little against Auburn. Some blame Hurts, other on poor pass protection. Clemson ranks No. 1 in the nation with 44 sacks and features two of college football’s top pass rushers in Clelin Ferrell (8.5 sacks) and Austin Bryant (7.5 sacks).
If the Tide aren’t in third-and-short, they are in trouble. Alabama’s biggest weakness this season comes on third down, where the Crimson Tide ranks last among playoff teams with a 41.5 percent conversion rate. Alabama’s a little bit better at stopping third downs, ranking No. 21 in the nation allowing opponents to convert on 32.95 percent of their attempts.
How Has the Team Done So Far This Season?
Against Mississippi State, Alabama converted on just 3 of 9 third-down attempts while allowing the Bulldogs to go 8 of 15. The loss to Auburn was the same story as Alabama went 3 of 11 while allowing the Tigers to convert 9 of 18 third-down tries. Third downs were even a problem during last year’s national championship game as Alabama went 2 of 15 while allowing Clemson to go 7 of 18.
Clemson comes into the game ranked No. 10 in the nation converting on 46.73 percent of its third-down attempts. The Tigers are even better at stopping third downs, coming in at No. 5 in the nation holding opponents to a 27.8 percent success rate.
Offensive Line Worries
Alabama’s offensive line is one of three finalists for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the top offensive line in the country. The other finalists are Auburn and Notre Dame. It’s the third straight year Alabama has been at least a finalist for the award, which has been around since 2015. The Tide won it in 2015. Iowa won last season.
Alabama’s offensive line has a “quality rush” on 56.8 percent of its runs (2nd in FBS). Quality rush measures how often a called run play yields an ideal result for the play caller (e.g. 5+ yds on a 1st/10 call, 4+ yards on 2nd/8, etc.). The Tide are also averaging 4.17 yards before contact (12th in FBS, 1st in SEC).
Senior center Bradley Bozeman has been named a finalist for the 2017 Dave Rimington Trophy. Bozeman is one of three centers around the country named to the finalist list. The Rimington Trophy has been presented annually since 2000 to the top center in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Barrett Jones (2012) and Ryan Kelly (2015) are Alabama’s previous Rimington honorees.
Bozeman has graded out at an average of 85.6 percent as a senior with 16 knockdown blocks and just seven missed assignments in 724 snaps (99.0 percent success rate). He has allowed just two sacks and four pressures all season and has blocked for six 100-yard rushing games this year, giving him 17 in his 28 career starts at center.
Yet that O-Line has had some issues at times. They haven’t been as in sync as they’ve been in the past and they’re not maulers. LSU, for example, sacked Hurts four times. Routinely loading the line of scrimmage with between six to eight players at once, LSU did its best to negate Alabama’s ground attack on early downs, which would then create significant down-and-distance situations, including 11 third-and-8 or greater scenarios, of which the Tide converted just two.
In the semifinal matchup, Clemson’s defensive line has a ferocious foursome of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant. Every member of Clemson’s front four will play in the NFL and have a chance to become a first-round draft selection. Clemson has held opposing offenses to just 12.8 points per game, the second best in the country.