National Championship Picks: Clemson To Cover ATS vs. Alabama

Ted Sevransky

Thursday, January 7, 2016 2:31 PM GMT

The 2016 College Football National Championship features the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Clemson Tigers. Don't make a move without checking this betting preview & our college football pick.

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College Football Pick: Clemson +7
Best Line Offered: at Bovada

 

National Championship Game
I could do this write-up in three sentences.  First, ‘Clemson isn’t Michigan State’.  Second, ‘This time around, Nick Saban doesn’t have three weeks of prep time’.  And third, ‘I can’t pass up the better quarterback catching a touchdown.’ That’s the crux of my pro-Tigers take.

Yes, Alabama has more top tier talent than Clemson; a roster that’s absolutely loaded with blue chip NFL prospects after the Crimson Tide have stood at the very top of the recruiting rankings in every recent season.  Yes, Alabama has gone 3-0 SU, 3-0 against the college football odds in previous national title games under Nick Saban.  Yes, Clemson doesn’t have the same type of elite pedigree as the vast majority of national title winners since the BCS era began. 

All of those factors are why 14-0 Clemson is the underdog here; already baked into this pointspread.  The Tigers are catching a full touchdown in many locations, although plenty of books still have Dabo Swinney’s squad at +6.5.  It’s important to note that any and all Clemson supporters should be shopping for the +7, not settling for the +6.5.  I’m expecting a competitive, one score game, not a blowout from either side.

The same theory holds true for Alabama bettors, who should be sure to lay -6.5, not -7.  Split lines like this one offer bettors a legitimate edge, regardless of which side they like.

Alabama can’t play a better game than the one they played against Michigan State last week.  Saban had his three weeks of prep time for that game, and his team had a real chip on their collective shoulders following their loss to another Big 10 team, Ohio State, in the semi-finals last year.  And most importantly, Clemson is not Michigan State!

The Spartans lacked playmakers at wide receiver, while Clemson is loaded with speedy, big play wideouts.  Michigan State had a drop-back passer at quarterback, not a dual threat mobile QB like Deshaun Watson.  Clemson spreads the field, Michigan State ran pro-style sets.  Clemson is loaded with NFL caliber talent on offense; the Spartans weren’t.  

Michigan State tried to run between the tackles, playing right into Alabama’s defensive strength.  Clemson is going to spread the field and run to the outside, playing right into Alabama’s biggest defensive weakness.  Michigan State tried to slow the game down; Clemson is going to speed it up. 

And perhaps most importantly, if Alabama was -9.5 or -10 against Michigan State, how on earth are they -7 here against a Clemson team that I have power rated a full TD better than the Spartans?  Simple – public perception that Alabama is the truly dominant, unbeatable team that they are purported to be.

The Crimson Tide lost at home to Ole Miss earlier this season.  They lost in the national championship semi-finals to Ohio State last year as well as a loss at Ole Miss.  In 2013, they got whipped in the Sugar Bowl by Oklahoma on the heels of a loss to Auburn.  In 2012, it was Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M who knocked them off their unbeaten perch.

Every one of those losses came against a team that plays into Alabama’s lone defensive weakness – their struggles against uptempo spread offenses with mobile quarterbacks.  When you push the pace, forcing Saban to alter his substitution patterns, the Crimson Tide defensive is less effective.  Every single defeat that Alabama has suffered in recent seasons has come against an offense that looks a lot like Clemson’s .

Saban has had three weeks of prep prior to all three previous national titles.  He had three weeks of prep prior to the win over Michigan State.  But he won’t have that extra prep time this week, a factor that matters even more considering the Kirby Smart situation.  ‘Bama’s defensive coordinator is also Georgia’s new head coach, and he’s trying to juggle both jobs as he installs a gameplan for this week. That can’t be considered a good thing for Crimson Tide supporters.

Jake Coker might play his way onto an NFL practice squad.  In a best case scenario, he might be drafted in the sixth or seventh round.  I can’t think of a single game in Coker’s collegiate career in which he responded to adversity by carrying his team to victory.  That certainly didn’t happen at Alabama this year.  And Coker doesn’t have a better game in him than the one he played last week against the Spartans.

Deshaun Watson carried Clemson on his back more than once this year, reminding this bettor of Cam Newton in his national championship season at Auburn in that regard.  Watson could be the #1 overall draft pick when he’s eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft.   His deft touch on the deep ball is of particular importance here – a stellar 45% completion percentage on passes of 20 yards or longer with a collegiate high 16 TD’s on those throws.  A quick strike TD (or two, or three) will go a long way towards a Clemson pointspread cover and/or potential upset on Monday Night as the sharp college football pick.