With the start of the college football’s championship week upon us – and the 2016 bowl game season following in short order, collegiate gridiron gaming enthusiasts everywhere need to know if anyone can derail the Alabama Crimson Tide in their quest to repeat as national champions.
Thanks to this expert look at the favorite, my smart pick and my top longshot selection to win the National Championship, you’re going to have a great idea of who, if anyone, can upset the Tide. Let’s get started.
Here’s A Closer Look At The Updated National Championship Expert Picks
Favorite: Alabama 5/7
Whether you’re a big fan of Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0 SU, 8-4 ATS) or you dislike them more than any team in college football today, there’s no denying the fact that Alabama is going to be very difficult to dispatch once the four-team College Football Playoff gets underway.
Alabama’s excellence begins and ends with its stupendous defense. The Crimson Tide are ranked first in total defense (247.1 ypg), first against the run (69.0 ypg), 11th against the pass (178.0 ypg) and first in points allowed (11.4 ppg). More importantly, the Tide have a bevy of rotating defensive linemen and linebackers that are downright scary.
Alabama also has a very solid offense and ranks 22nd nationally in total offense (479.5 ypg) and 19th in scoring (39.4 ypg). While the Crimson Tide don’t have a Heisman trophy caliber running back on this year’s squad like they have the past few seasons, they still run the ball well in ranking 13th nationally in rushing (248.3 ypg).
True freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has been absolutely outstanding in completing a scorching 65.9 percent of his passes while tossing 21 TD passes and just nine interceptions. However, it is his dual-threat ability that has made Alabama’s offense extremely dangerous to stop this season. Hurts ranks second in rushing to Damien Harris (900 yards), with a stellar 840 yards and 12 rushing scores. Clearly, to beat the Tide this postseason, some team is going to have to both, put some points on the board against Alabama’s stingy defense – and stop the gifted Hurts from running wild.
Smart: Clemson 6/1
Maybe it’s me, but I wonder why so many football ‘experts’ seem to be forgetting about the Clemson Tigers (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS) as a legitimate challenger to Alabama’s two-year dominance. Clemson ranks a fantastic 12th in total offense this season (507.4 ypg), fifth in passing (336.0 ypg) and 17th in scoring (40.0 ppg) and has a really talented running back in Wayne Gallman even if the Tigers rank a modest 72nd nationally in rushing (171.4 ypg).
Clemson also has an outstanding – if underrated defense – that ranks a stellar eighth nationally in total defense (307.9 ypg), 26th against the run, 12th against the pass (180.1 ypg) and eighth in points allowed (17.0 ppg). The Tigers also have a quarterback in Deshaun Watson that I believe is one of the few quarterbacks in the country capable of giving Alabama’s stingy defense fits with his ability to make throws from the pocket or break down defense by running the ball when the opportunity presents itself.
Watson has been phenomenal this season in completing an incendiary 67.5 percent of his passes for 3,626 yards with 34 touchdown passes, though he has tossed a high, 14 interceptions. Watson has also rushed for 44 yards and four touchdowns to compliment Gallman’s 943 rushing yards and team-high 14 rushing TDs. The Clemson Tigers may not be getting the respect I feel they deserve, but I’m giving it to them and at 6/1 odds, they’re undoubtedly offering a bunch of real value as a legit title contender.
Longshot: Washington 8/1
Again, maybe it’s me, but I’m shocked that some football observers aren’t giving the Washington Huskies (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS) the respect I believe they deserve as a legitimate national championship title contender. The Huskies rank fourth nationally in scoring by putting up a whopping 44.7 points per game as underrated quarterback Jake Browning has completed an impressive 65.0 percent of his passes for 3,162 yards with an insane 40 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions.
Washington also has a gifted running back in Myles Gaskin (1,180 yards, 10 TDs) and a trio of excellent, if underrated, pass-catchers in John Ross, Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher. While Washington’s offense gets all of the attention for its high-scoring ways, it is the Huskies’ defense that I believe could be the key to upsetting any team that reaches the four-team playoff. Washington ranks 17th nationally in total defense (328.9 ypg) and an encouraging 11th in points allowed (17.8 ppg).
If the Huskies win the Pac-12 title, they’ll be included in the four-team College Football Playoff – and I believe, once they get in, they could upset the entire apple cart!