Clemson-Alabama: Who Really Has the Edge Tonight?

January 8, 2017 by Dave Congrove

Tonight is the rematch between Alabama and Clemson for college football's national championship, to be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, an open-air facility that serves as home to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and college football's South Florida Bulls. It is a relatively small facility whose size has contributed to the scarce availability of tickets, driving the secondary market price up to $1,200 and beyond.

Clemson, 1-1 in all-time national championship game opportunities, is looking for its first title since 1981. Alabama is looking for its 5th since 2009.

Alabama leads the all-time series 13-3. The Tigers won the first 3 games of the series, all played between 1900 and 1905. Alabama has taken every game since then and even though last year's national championship showdown was close, the Tide have an overall 27-10 average score advantage in the series.

Prior to Dabo Swinney's squad posting 40 on the 'Bama boys last year, Clemson had not scored more than 14 points vs. Alabama since 1905 and had been shut out 7 times.

Dabo will tell you that's ancient history, and it is certainly true that. Clemson is in a higher class of college football pedigree now. Dabo, whose personality can grind on a lot of non-Clemson fans, is a one-of-kind hyper enthusiastic supporter of his program. His attitude has been contagious. Fans, players and administrative personnel are all firm believers.

But Alabama is still Alabama - the powerful program that rarely dips and always eventually rebound to grab more national titles. In baseball terms, Alabama is a tough out. More 5-star athletes, more depth, better facilities and a demanding fan base. Saban is looking to tie Bear Bryant with the most national championship wins (6) of any head coach in college football history.

The bottom line is that when a program like Alabama has assembled the type of team it has this year, the odds of defeating it are minuscule.

Sportsbook open: 6-1/2 to 7 points in favor Nick Saban's team.

Congrove Computer Rankings at Alabama by 9.64.

ESPN Football Power Index (FPI): 60.4% in favor of Alabama. predicted score: Alabama 40.9, Clemson 32.7

That's not to say that you can't find some positive signs that give hope to a Clemson victory. For instance, shows the following statistical rankings:

Defense: Alabama 1, Clemson 8

Offense: Clemson 12, Alabama 31

And finally, you can find one good even-steven reason to call a draw as points out the fact that Clemson is 7-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 8 games as an underdog of 7.0 or more, while Alabama is 7-2 ATS in its last 9 games as a favorite.