The College Football National Championship Game
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
TIME TO SEE WHO'S THE BOSS AS #1 CLEMSON AND #2 ALABAMA DUKE IT OUT IN THE DESERT
It's finally time to crown a king: College Football's wild and often wacky 2015 season wraps up in the desert on Monday Night with the country's two top teams squaring off - remember last year we had #2 Oregon and #4 Ohio State as the last two teams standing with the Buckeyes snagging the surprising 42-20 win - and so let's get down to brass taxes here with a Jim Sez preview comin' straight your way.
Get the Side & Totals of this weekend's NFL Wild Card Round games when you check with us here on game-day mornings at Jim Hurley's Network. Cash in with Sunday's two playoff games -- the Seattle Seahawks at the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers at the Washington Redskins - as America's #1 Handicapper keeps dishing out red-hot winners.
And, of course, make sure you're all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week either online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Hey, the College Football National Championship Game is set - that's #1 Clemson versus #2 Alabama on Monday night (8:30 p.m. ET kickoff) from Glendale ... and we're ready to put a capper on what's been a great post-season/bowl season with Side & Totals winners here!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT - NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
University of Phoenix Stadium - at Glendale, AZ
#1 CLEMSON (14-0) vs. #2 ALABAMA (13-1) - In case you had not noticed, the Southeastern Conference hasn't won a national championship since 2012 (see Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14).
Okay, so we kiddingly say that because the SEC did win seven straight national titles between 2006-thru-2012 and this little "drought" has the proud conference pumping out its chest once again while heading into this winner-take-all game in Arizona. True, Alabama head Nick Saban - who has won four titles in all including three with the Tide (2009, 2011 and '12) and one at LSU - changed his team's overall mind-set this year after a one-and-done playoff deal a year ago and the formula for success was tweaked a bit in that 38-0 whitewash of 10-point underdog Michigan State in the New Year's Eve Sugar Bowl/semifinal round playoff game.
Saban - and his offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin - didn't rely so much on Heisman Trophy-winning RB Derrick Henry who wound up with just 75 yards rushing and two TDs against Sparty as QB Jake Coker was brilliant while completing 25-of-30 passes for a career-high 286 yards. The bottom line here is if Alabama -a 7-point TD favorite at press time - is gonna win another crown than Henry should count on getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 30+ carries while Coker's likely gonna have to balance that out with 30-or-so aerial attempts with frosh WR Calvin Ridley (8 catches for 138 yards and two TDs versus Michigan State) his favorite target.
Expect Clemson's defense - ranked sixth nationally - to put that eight-men-in-a-box look here with off-the-corner blitzes that the Tigers hope either rattle Coker in the pocket or disrupt Henry's rushing starts right there in the backfield. We won't be the first to tell you that once Henry gets past that first line/level of defense, he becomes a major handful with lots of yards-after-first-contact.
No doubt the 'Bama defense - one that ranks second overall in the nation and first against the rush (allowing 70.8 ypg) - will rely heavily on LB Reggie Ragland, CB Cyrus Jones and mates to make all the big stands here but anyone that's watched college football in recent years knows that Saban's defense has issues with dual-threat quarterbacks ... see Texas A&M Johnny Manziel and Auburn's Cam Newton back in the day.
Now, here comes Heisman Trophy finalist QB Deshaun Watson into the fray and this dude's hot:
Watson has thrown for 3,699 yards with 31 TDs and 12 INTs this year but note he's also rushed for 1,032 yards and 12 TDs and he's lost just one fumble all season long. Expect Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his underrated offensive staff to put Watson in a variety of formations here - don't be surprised when/if he runs from out of the shotgun formation - and so while 'Bama could "spy" the superstar quarterback here they better not sleep on the other guys including hard-charging RB Wayne Gallman who is fresh off a 150-yard rushing game with two TDs against the "Boomer Sooners".
Keep in mind that Clemson trailed Oklahoma 17-16 at halftime of that Orange Bowl/playoff tilt and then outscored the Big 12 team 21-0 after intermission - the lesson being that Clemson's offensive line gets stronger the longer the game goes and Watson and Company get better at recognizing what defenses are being thrown at 'em.
Finally, don't discount the unpredictability factor here when it comes to Swinney: He had his punter Andy Teasdall throw a pass on a fake punt 'round midfield in a key moment against Oklahoma and so watch for a fake FG or some razzle-dazzle on the special teams in an attempt to flip-flop field position while Saban's more apt to stay with the slow-down-the-game formula. Let's just say if Clemson gets off more than 75 snaps here, it probably wins. Anything less and it shows Alabama is dictating the speed of this national championship game.
Current Line: Alabama (- 7) and 50.5 points
Spread Notes - Alabama is 8-6 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and that includes five covers in its last six games. Note also that the Crimson Tide covered six-of-seven away games this year after going a composite 4-9 ATS away in the 2013-14 seasons. Meanwhile, Clemson is just 7-7 spreadwise this season and note the Tigers enter this championship game tilt at 9-10 versus the vig away the past three seasons.
Here's the game-by-game results for Clemson and then Alabama (note all home teams in caps below):
|9-12||CLEMSON||- 18.5||Appala. St.||41-10|
|10-3||CLEMSON||- 3||Notre Dame||24-22|
|10-10||CLEMSON||- 7||Georgia Tech||43-24|
|10-17||CLEMSON||- 18||Boston Coll.||34-17|
|10-31||Clemson||- 12.5||N.C. STATE||56-41|
|11-7||CLEMSON||- 12.5||Florida St.||23-13|
|11-21||CLEMSON||- 29.5||Wake Forest||33-13|
|11-28||Clemson||- 20||SO. CAROL||37-32|
|*12-5||Clemson||- 6.5||North Carol||45-37|
* = ACC Championship Game (at Charlotte)
% = Orange Bowl/Playoffs
|9-12||ALABAMA||- 34.5||Mid Tenn St||37-10|
|9-19||OLE MISS||+ 7.5||Alabama||43-37|
|10-17||Alabama||- 5||TEXAS A&M||41-23|
|11-14||Alabama||- 7||MISS STATE||31-6|
|11-21||ALABAMA||- 39.5||Charles. Sou.||56-6|
|#12-31||Alabama||- 10||Michigan St.||38-0|
- = at Arlington
^ = SEC Championship (at Atlanta)
# = Sugar Bowl/Playoffs
NOTE: Get last-minute notes on #1 Clemson vs. # 2 Alabama plus NFL Wild Card Game re-caps too in the next Jim Sez.
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