Alabama vs. Clemson: Sugar Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Alabama vs. Clemson: Sugar Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Alabama vs. Clemson: Sugar Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the College Football Playoff Semifinal Sugar Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

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College Football Playoff: Sugar Bowl
Alabama (11-1) vs. Clemson (12-1)


Date: Monday, January 1st
Game Time: 8:45 pm
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Sugar Bowl

It’s Part III. It’s actually not, since it’s not the national championship, but in a lot of ways and to a lot of people, this might be the real national title.

The Rose Bowl is about the young head coaches getting their shots on the biggest of stages for the first time. This is about the two biggest superpowers in college football getting it on for the third straight season in the equivalent of Cavs-Warriors, 1990s 49ers-Cowboys, Krispy Kreme Chocolate Iced with Kreme Filling vs. Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme – it’s top of the game vs. top of the game.

There are flaws.

Clemson might have lost to Syracuse and Alabama hasn’t looked or played remotely like the team of the past few seasons, but despite all the screaming and yelling about the process that made this matchup happen – mostly my me – whatever.

They’re both in, they’re both getting another shot at a national title, and they’re both almost certain to put on a great show.

This really and truly is Clemson’s shot to become the new biggest of the college football big boys. Alabama has owned the world over the last several years, and Ohio State has been right there, but a win means a third national championship appearance in three years.

Most amazingly of all, it will have been done with a total overhaul.

The defensive line has undergone massive changes over the last several seasons, and it hasn’t mattered a lick. But to get to another CFP national title game without Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Jordan Leggett on offense would be incredible.

This really and truly is Alabama’s shot to show that there’s no one else in college football who can touch this program. Clemson has come close, but if the Tigers lose, there might be some thought that they did what they did over the last two seasons because they had THE guy in Watson.

If Alabama wins, it’ll show that nothing matters.

The resume isn’t that great this year, the team was just okay, and the SEC as a whole was a relative dud. Win, and The Process proves that it’s all about winning when you absolutely have to. It’ll prove that this program might just be above and beyond anything that college football has ever seen.

The machine will be unstoppable.

Here’s Why Alabama Will Win The Sugar Bowl

It’s time for the running game to get rolling. That’s easier said than done against the dominant Clemson defensive front, but no one this season has tried blasting away.

Auburn couldn’t get physical in the early-season 14-6 loss because it couldn’t slow down the Tiger line getting into the backfield, and Kerryon Johnson wasn’t playing. Kamryn Pettway, though, ran for a hard 74 yards.

This is an attitude game for the Bama offensive front. The Tide rumbled for 200 yards or more in every game but the opener against Florida State, and the battle with LSU. When this group gets into a groove, it can blast on anyone.

Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris and Bo Scarbrough have to keep getting the ball and they have to keep trying over and over again, even if it’s just a few yards per crack. It’s about controlling the clock, controlling the tempo, and getting physical, and then hoping for a big game from …

Jalen Hurts. He struggled in last year’s College Football Playoff with the passing game, but he almost won the national title on his brilliant late run against the Tigers. This year, he’s not making mistakes with just one interception, 15 touchdown passes, and the running ability to take off and keep things moving.

However, he needs manageable third down chances. On the year, Bama has been great on third and short, and lousy from longer distances. If the running game can do its job early, Hurts – the veteran quarterback in this thing – should take care of the rest.

It’s still the Alabama run defense. The pass rush might not be there compared to past seasons, but it’s still not allowing a thing on the ground giving up well under three yards per carry with just eight touchdowns on the season.

A good day for the Clemson running game would be around 150 yards, but the downfield passing attack isn’t good enough to make up for a lousy day from the rest of the offense. The Tigers are averaging just under 11 yards per completion – that’s not good.

Here’s Why Clemson Will Win The Sugar Bowl

Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant. Ohio State’s defensive line is really, really good, but Clemson’s is better.

The Tigers ranked second in the nation with 44 sacks, came up with a ridiculous 104 tackles for loss, and attacks, attacks, attacks.

Yeah, Alabama would like to get to 200 yards on the ground, and it probably needs to get there to have a chance, but the Tigers have yet to allow that on the year – Georgia Tech came the closest with 198.

The Crimson Tide defensive front might be great, and it might be fantastic against the run, but it allowed two touchdowns to Auburn and three to Mississippi State in the last two games against FBS teams.

Clemson hasn’t allowed a rushing score since the blowout win over Florida State on November 11th, and gave up just five rushing scores on the year.

Third downs. Clemson is amazing on third downs, and Alabama isn’t.

The Crimson Tide were amazing at times on the money downs against the mediocre and sad, but they struggled against Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State, and they converted just 27% of their chances in the loss to Auburn.

Clemson was under 37% once – the loss to Syracuse, converting 2-of-11 third down tries when QB Kelly Bryant was hurt. Alabama was under 37% five times.

This has to be Kelly Bryant’s game. No one thought he’d be Deshaun Watson, but he’s more than held his own as a strong playmaker for the offense, hitting 67% of his passes for 2,678 yards and 13 scores with just six picks. He’s also running well, coming up with 646 yards and 11 touchdowns.

He might not push the ball down the field like Watson did, but he’s been deadly late in the season, connecting on 79% of his throws against Miami, hurting South Carolina for 272 yards, and not making the key mistakes opponents need.

Since giving up two picks to Boston College, Bryant has thrown just three over the last nine games.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Sugar Bowl

This is the biggest moment yet in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff. The CFP committee made a big, bold call last year by putting in Ohio State – even though it didn’t even win its own division – and got clowned by a 31-0 Clemson win in the Fiesta Bowl.

This year, the committee is saying Alabama is one of the four best teams, even though it didn’t always look like it on the field, and the resume was painfully lacking of substance. With the way the Big Ten has played this bowl season, if Alabama loses, it’ll be bad. If it loses by double-digits, it’ll be a nightmare of a problem for the College Football Playoff committee process.

– It’s a horrible break for Clemson to be the No. 1 seed and have to play Alabama in the SEC’s home big bowl ballpark – the Tide would’ve gone to the Sugar if they were No. 1 – but call it a bit of a nudge for having the worst loss on the resume – 4-8 Syracuse – by any of the all-time 16 College Football Playoff teams.

– There’s absolutely no stress between either of these teams. It’s business as usual for both, because both head coaches and both programs are comfortable about the world and their place in it. That’s what comes with experience, and having done this all before. And it’s why the winner of this will be the favorite in the national championship.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Sugar Bowl?

For the first time in the four-year history of the College Football Playoff, a team is coming into this thing with a loss in its last game.

Is it a break for Alabama to get an extra week off to rest up? Not really – Clemson has had plenty of time to heal.

Does it give Clemson advantage to have that extra game and the win over Miami in the ACC Championship? Not really – Alabama does what it does no matter what.

The problem is that Alabama – for being Alabama – is just okay.

That doesn’t mean the Crimson Tide can’t find another gear and become amazing when the lights are on, but other than beating up on the bad teams on the slate, there isn’t a whole lot there to get excited about.

Bama struggled against LSU, was whatever against Texas A&M, and was lousy against Auburn.

And Clemson beat Auburn.

It’s always a guess of an X factor when it comes to how teams can carry over momentum, but Clemson was peaking at the right time at the end of the season. With their defensive front, the Tigers are going to force Alabama to win through the air.

Alabama can’t do that.

Don’t expect a shootout like the last two national championships. This will be a war of attrition.

Final Score

Clemson 24, Alabama 17
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Alabama -3, o/u: 47

ATS Confidence: 4
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 5
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Sugar Bowl History, Results

Jan. 2, 2017 Oklahoma 35, Auburn 19
Jan. 1, 2016 Mississippi 48 Oklahoma State 20
Jan. 1, 2015 Ohio State 42 Alabama 35
Jan. 2, 2014 Oklahoma 45 Alabama 31
Jan. 2, 2013 Louisville 33 Florida 23
Jan. 4, 2012 Michigan 23 Virginia Tech 20 (OT)
Jan. 4, 2011 Ohio State 31 Arkansas 26
Jan. 1, 2010 Florida 51 Cincinnati 24
Jan. 1, 2009 Utah 31 Alabama 17
Jan. 1, 2008 Georgia 41 Hawaii 10
Jan. 3, 2007 LSU 41 Notre Dame 14
Jan. 2, 2006 West Virginia 38 Georgia 35
Jan. 3, 2005 Auburn 16 Virginia Tech 13
Jan. 4, 2004 LSU 21 Oklahoma 14
Jan. 1, 2003 Georgia 26 Florida State 13
Jan. 1, 2002 LSU 47 Illinois 34
Jan. 2, 2001 Miami 37 Florida 20
Jan. 4, 2000 Florida State 46 Virginia Tech 29
Jan. 1, 1999 Ohio State 24 Texas A&M 14
Jan. 1, 1998 Florida State 31 Ohio State 14
Jan. 2, 1997 Florida 52 Florida State 20
Dec. 31, 1995 Virginia Tech 28 Texas 10
Jan. 2, 1995 Florida State 23 Florida 17
Jan. 1, 1994 Florida 41 West Virginia 7
Jan. 1, 1993 Alabama 34 Miami 13
Jan. 1, 1992 Notre Dame 39 Florida 28
Jan. 1, 1991 Tennessee 23 Virginia 22
Jan. 1, 1990 Miami 33 Alabama 25
Jan. 2, 1989 Florida State 13 Auburn 7
Jan. 1, 1988 Auburn 16 Syracuse 16
Jan. 1, 1987 Nebraska 30 LSU 15
Jan. 1, 1986 Tennessee 35 Miami 7
Jan. 1, 1985 Nebraska 28 LSU 10
Jan. 2, 1984 Auburn 9 Michigan 7
Jan. 1, 1983 Penn State 27 Georgia 23
Jan. 1, 1982 Pittsburgh 24 Georgia 20
Jan. 1, 1981 Georgia 17 Notre Dame 10
Jan. 1, 1980 Alabama 24 Arkansas 9
Jan. 1, 1979 Alabama 14 Penn State 7
Jan. 2, 1978 Alabama 35 Ohio State 6
Jan. 1, 1977 Pittsburgh 27 Georgia 3
Dec. 31, 1975 Alabama 13 Penn State 6
Dec. 31, 1974 Nebraska 13 Florida 10
Dec. 31, 1973 Notre Dame 24 Alabama 23
Dec. 31, 1972 Oklahoma 14 Penn State 0
Jan. 1, 1972 Oklahoma 40 Auburn 22
Jan. 1, 1971 Tennessee 34 Air Force 13
Jan. 1, 1970 Mississippi 27 Arkansas 22
Jan. 1, 1969 Arkansas 16 Georgia 2
Jan. 1, 1968 LSU 20 Wyoming 13
Jan. 2, 1967 Alabama 34 Nebraska 7
Jan. 1, 1966 Missouri 20 Florida 18
Jan. 1, 1965 LSU 13 Syracuse 10
Jan. 1, 1964 Alabama 12 Mississippi 7
Jan. 1, 1963 Mississippi 17 Arkansas 3
Jan. 1, 1962 Alabama 10 Arkansas 3
Jan. 2, 1961 Mississippi 14 Rice 6
Jan. 1, 1960 Mississippi 21 LSU 0
Jan. 1, 1959 LSU 7 Clemson 0
Jan. 1, 1958 Mississippi 39 Texas 7
Jan. 1, 1957 Baylor 13 Tennessee 7
Jan. 2, 1956 Georgia Tech 7 Pittsburgh 0
Jan. 1, 1955 Navy 21 Mississippi 0
Jan. 1, 1954 Georgia Tech 42 West Virginia 19
Jan. 1, 1953 Georgia Tech 24 Mississippi 7
Jan. 2, 1952 Maryland 28 Tennessee 13
Jan. 1, 1951 Kentucky 13 Oklahoma 7
Jan. 2, 1950 Oklahoma 35 LSU 0
Jan. 1, 1949 Oklahoma 14 North Carolina 6
Jan. 1, 1948 Texas 27 Alabama 7
Jan. 1, 1947 Georgia 20 North Carolina 10
Jan. 1, 1946 Oklahoma State 33 St. Mary’s 13
Jan. 1, 1945 Duke 29 Alabama 26
Jan. 1, 1944 Georgia Tech 20 Tulsa 18
Jan. 1, 1943 Tennessee 14 Tulsa 7
Jan. 1, 1942 Fordham 2 Missouri 0
Jan. 1, 1941 Boston College 19 Tennessee 13
Jan. 1, 1940 Texas A&M 14 Tulane 13
Jan. 2, 1939 TCU 15 Carnegie Tech 7
Jan. 1, 1938 Santa Clara 6 LSU 0
Jan. 1, 1937 Santa Clara 21 LSU 14
Jan. 1, 1936 TCU 3 LSU 2
Jan. 1, 1935 Tulane 20 Temple 14


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