Network Notebook: Will Alabama Get its Revenge on Clemson
IS THE MEDIA OVERPLAYING THE REVENGE FACTOR IN ALABAMA/CLEMSON FINAL FOUR MATCHUP?
In recent days, money has continued to pour in on the Alabama Crimson Tide in their huge Final Four matchup against Clemson this coming Monday. Those two teams faced each other the past two seasons for the National Championship. Last year, Clemson upset Alabama to lift the trophy.
The concept of "revenge" is an easy shortcut to latch onto when trying to make selections. But, it's one thing to lay one point with a talented revenge-minded team. Another to lay two points. Once you get to three or more...in what could be an evenly matched neutral site battle, it becomes tougher to justify the theme. Would you lay SEVEN points with Alabama, just because of revenge? What about 10 or 14 points? How much is revenge worth?
Or, more importantly, does revenge trump all of these other issues?
*Strength of schedule: Alabama played a very soft slate this season. That wasn't necessarily their fault. Florida State turned out not to be a superpower, even after you account for the later loss of its quarterback. The SEC has been moving backwards for several seasons. While Georgia and Auburn were both legitimate Final Four contenders late in the year, most of the teams on the schedules of the SEC powers were having down years. Missouri got hot down the stretch only to be bullied by Texas in a bowl game. Nobody else was getting hot. Clemson played a tougher schedule, and is more battle-tested. Also, Clemson beat Auburn, while Alabama couldn't.
*Inconsistent passing game: Clemson has a great defense which does a good job of stuffing the line when they know a run is coming. Alabama's passing game is always spotty. There are playmakers who can bust loose in the open field. There's no guarantee they'll catch many passes in the open field! Alabama ranks #8 in rushing yards this season, only #83 in passing yards. Clemson ranks #12 nationally against the run, and #5 in fewest yards allowed. Can Alabama get its revenge if they can't move the ball consistently? Revenge doesn't matter if the avenging team doesn't have the capability of extracting that revenge.
*Equality of athleticism: Alabama wins a lot of its games by being bigger, stronger, and faster than its opponents. Well, bigger in the trenches and faster in the offensive and defensive backfields. Clemson is one of the few teams in the nation that can match up with the Tide in pure physicality. We've seen that the past two seasons. Alabama has to get creative to beat a team like Clemson...and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney often wins the creativity battle against opposing coaches. It's much easier for Alabama to get revenge against a fading SEC team it can bully than a thriving national power it might not be able to.
JIM HURLEY is aware of the potential power of "revenge" in college football. Heck, Clemson had revenge on its mind last year when it pulled the upset in the finals! But, being a dog with revenge is different than being a favorite with revenge in terms of betting value. That's particularly true if this game is a true-toss up where points will be at a premium. NETWORK won't post its official selections here in the HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK because that's not fair to paying customers. We will tell you that these will be the keys to our game day selection in Alabama/Clemson.
*Point of Attack Dynamics
*Special Teams strengths and weaknesses
Revenge is on our radar. It's not the only thing on our radar. It might be the ace in the hole that puts Alabama over the top as a major release. It might be the red herring that gives Clemson bets free points which create a huge percentage boost. When you do learn our selection...and when you watch the game...you'll understand how all of those keys fit together to create a betting edge.
Everyone on the NETWORK team has been looking forward to this huge weekend of football action. As we post this online Friday, we're still anticipating bankroll builders on Ohio State/USC in Friday's Cotton Bowl, Penn State/Washington in Saturday's Fiesta Bowl, the full Sunday slate Week 17 NFL action, and then scoring big in the annual New Year's Day bowl extravaganza on Monday. Note that NETWORK is 6-2 its last eight bowl picks against the spread. And, the two failures were hard-luck losses with Boston College over Iowa (won stats big) and Virginia Tech over Oklahoma State (won stats but turned the ball over in the red zone).
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We'll be back with you early next week to talk about the NFL playoff picture. We hope you have a great holiday weekend enjoying all the blockbuster football matchups...AND GETTING ALL THE MONEY WITH JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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