College Football Betting Preview: National Championship Game
numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, the spread, or the moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting for any given game. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.
For example, if you would normally bet $110 to win $100 on a -110 spread wager, if we give a 3-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300.
The two best teams face off on Monday to decide the National Championship in a familiar matchup. "Alabama-Clemson IV" sounds like the title of a blockbuster action movie, and this game has all the betting angles to live up to the hype. We cover just a few that could prove profitable come Monday night.
All advanced statistics are courtesy of the S&P+ individual team statistical profiles, except where noted, and not all lines are accompanied by our algorithm-based ratings.
Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you're seeing the most updated information.
Clemson +5.5 (-110): 1-Star Rating out of 5
Behind stud quarterback Tua Tagovoiloa, the Crimson Tide own the best passing offense in the nation, according to our models. Tua has completed 69.5% of his passes for 10.7 yards per attempt to a deep stable of receivers that includes all-SEC teamers Jerry Jeudy and Irv Smith, Jr. Alabama even has an overqualified backup quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who played most of last year’s National Championship game until he was benched in favor of Tagovailoa. Even so, Clemson has some distinct defensive advantages that start up front with their monstrous defensive line.
Dexter Lawrence has been ruled ineligible for Monday's game, but Clemson still has two potential first-round draft picks in Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins on the defensive line. The Tigers are fifth in sack rate at 10.5% and fifth in stuff rate at a whopping 27.0%. Clemson is the best rushing defense, by both our model and S&P+, so Alabama will have to rely on their passing attack. The Tide are facing their biggest challenge of the season against Clemson’s pass rush and top cornerback prospect Trayvon Mullen.
As explosive as Alabama’s passing offense is, their defense has been susceptible to big gains against opponents’ passing attacks. They rank 80th in isolated points per play (IsoPPP) and allow plays of 20 yards or more on 7.0% of downs. Clemson has the personnel to take advantage with running back Travis Etienne, who has averaged an eye-popping 9.00 highlight yards per opportunity this season. The Tigers have some explosive receivers of their own, including Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross, who combined for three touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame.
While our model projects a modest net return of 3.60% based on a 54.27% likelihood for Clemson to cover, the Tigers have a legitimate shot to at least cover and potential upend the seemingly invincible Crimson Tide.
Total Under 59.5 (-110): 2-Star Rating out of 5
Alabama Under 32.5 (-110)
Both offenses featured in this matchup are explosive, but Clemson comes in with the best defense in the country, per S&P+, and should challenge Tua and the Tide with their pass rush. When Alabama faced the best defenses the SEC had to offer, LSU and Mississippi State, they failed to reach 30 points. Clemson only put up 30 points themselves against Notre Dame’s defense last week. Alabama and Clemson each have offensive weapons, but they’ve shown throughout the season that they can be challenged by the country’s best defenses.
The point total went over 59.5 in the first two championship matchups between these teams, but they only combined for 30 in last year’s Sugar Bowl. This year’s Clemson defense is easily the best iteration of the last four years, and they don’t have Deshaun Watson to lead quick drives down the field. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Etienne deserve recognition for leading the Tiger offense to great heights this season, but they haven’t played a defense of Alabama’s caliber, save for the Irish last week.
In particular, Alabama's current line of 32.5 seems a bit high based on past performances. Our matchup heat map shows that the Tide will have a difficult matchup against Clemson's elite rushing defense, and that they average fewer plays per game than the Tigers. Alabama is only projected to score 29.94 points, according to our model, in their most difficult matchup yet this season.
Overall, our model says the 59.5 total is too high and that the likelihood of the score staying under that is 59.5%m which is quite the coincidence. Bettors can expect a net return of 13.60%, and while there will likely be some offensive heroics in this game, each team’s defense is too good for the game to turn into a Big 12 style shootout.
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