NCAAF Bowl Season Betting

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College Football Bowl Season Odds Breakdown

It seemed almost inevitable right from the beginning. For the third time in four years, it will be the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide taking on the No. 2 Clemson Tigers in the CFP National Championship, kicking off this Monday at 8 PM ET on ESPN. It could have been four years in a row, but at the end of the 2017 campaign, Alabama and Clemson broke up the set by meeting in the CFP semifinals instead.

Not a problem this year. Saturday’s CFP semifinals saw the Tigers maul Notre Dame 30-3 as 10.5-point favorites on the college football odds board, followed by the Crimson Tide (–14.5) dusting off Oklahoma 45-34. That sets up what promises to be yet another incredible title game on Monday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara – unless the venue itself decides to ruin things. Field conditions are notoriously poor at this stadium; Oregon ended up beating Michigan State 7-6 (UNDER 47) on New Year’s Eve at the Redbox Bowl, as the turf monsters swallowed up several players from both teams. There’s also a possibility of rain in the long-term forecast for Monday’s title game.

 

College Football Playoff Odds: The Favorite

The Crimson Tide (14-0 SU, 8-6 ATS) are 6.5-point favorites over Clemson (14-0 SU, 8-6 ATS) at press time, holding steady since the open, with the total dipping from 61 to 60. The Bowl Season odds haven’t been kind to ‘Bama in recent years; they’re 2-5 ATS in their last seven bowl games, including 0-3 ATS for the National Championship – where they met the Tigers in 2015 and 2016, splitting the pair straight up.

There’s little debate that Alabama have the strongest program in the nation, with semi-legendary head coach Nick Saban at the controls. But every year, the hype inflates their College Football Playoff odds and makes it difficult for ‘Bama to cover. Are the Tide really that much better than the team Dabo Swinney has assembled in South Carolina? Here’s how the two teams shape up heading into Monday’s showdown.

 

1. Alabama Crimson Tide: –225 NCAA Football Odds

There are few teams that can hold a candle to Alabama on either side of the ball. Their offense is brilliant in both rushing and passing – especially the latter, with sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa just missing out on the Heisman Trophy to Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. Tagovailoa got his revenge during their Orange Bowl semifinal, completing 24 of 27 passes for 318 yards, four touchdowns and zero picks. Looks like that high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 14 wasn’t too much of an issue.

The Tide defense isn’t quite at the same level, but it’s still one of the Top-10 units in the FBS against both the run and the pass. And it looks like senior LB Christian Miller will be okay to play Monday after injuring his left hamstring during the third quarter against the Sooners. Miller’s MRI revealed a pull rather than a tear; he’s Alabama’s top linebacker, and a lethal 1-2 pass rush weapon supporting senior DE Isaiah Buggs.

If there’s any weakness with the Tide, it’s on special teams, specifically the punting and kicking – Alabama are 76-for-84 on extra points this year. However, they’ve only had to punt 40 times; only Oklahoma (31) have punted less often among teams that played 14 games. This is the one area that Clemson can definitely exploit on Monday by piling on the pressure.

 

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2. Clemson Tigers: +185 NCAA Football Odds

Will the college football bowl odds ever catch up with Clemson? They’ve got the best defense in the nation, and a Top-10 offense that’s particularly good at running the football. Sophomore RB Travis Etienne is their workhorse, racking up 1,463 yards rushing and 21 TDs on the ground. Etienne torched the Fighting Irish for 109 yards and a major on just 14 carries at the Cotton Bowl.

As for their air attack, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s under center – Sweeney has gotten excellent results in recent years from Deshaun Watson, Kelly Bryant, and now Kelly Lawrence, a freshman who took over the starting gig from Bryant in Week 5. The Tigers are 9-0 SU and 6-3 ATS since they made the change.

Again, special teams could be the deciding factor in Monday’s game, especially with the turf conditions in Santa Clara, and the Tigers have multiple weaknesses in this facet of the game. But they haven’t missed a PAT all year (80-for-80), and in a game where touchdowns could be hard to come by, a single point could make all the difference for Clemson.

 


*Odds as of January 2, 2019

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