Alabama vs. Notre Dame Odds & Picks: How to Bet Friday’s Rose Bowl & CFP Semifinal Game
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Najee Harris.
- We've made it. After a long season full of ups, downs, and cancellations, the College Football Playoff is here.
- The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Rose Bowl on Friday, and the winner advances to the national championship.
- Collin Wilson broke down the game below and shared a betting pick based on his analysis.
Alabama vs. Notre Dame Odds
For the first time in 132 years of football at the collegiate level, Notre Dame joined the ACC on a one-year agreement.
The decision was mutually beneficial in a year dictated by the pandemic. The Fighting Irish went on to complete an undefeated regular season, including a win over Clemson and a defensive masterpiece against North Carolina.
Notre Dame had all but locked up a trip to the College Football Playoff, considering the Pac-12 shortened season and a Big 12 champion with multiple losses. The Irish fell, 34-10, to Clemson in the rematch to earn the fourth seed in the playoff to go head-to-head with SEC champion Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are the first team in SEC history to complete a 10-0 conference-only regular season. Through the conference championship, Alabama has put up an 8-3 mark against the spread.
Many pundits call this Alabama team one of the greatest, and that would be completely accurate from a Success Rate point of view. The 2019 LSU offense powered by Joe Burrow finished with an Offensive Success Rate of 54.9%, which is short of this Alabama team at 55.3%.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Throwing statistics on a chart or quoting a specific advanced metric simply does not do this Alabama team any justice.
This version of the Crimson Tide can be compared with any championship team from the playoff era, and in most cases, have exceeded former winners.
Nick Saban compiled these statistics on an 11-game sample versus all SEC teams, none of which were named South Carolina or Vanderbilt, which combined for a 2-17 record.
Heisman voting has been completed and the winner will not be announced until after the semifinals, but if this writer had a vote, it would go to Mac Jones.
There are endless amounts of evidence that Jones has been better than his predecessors, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.
The junior holds a top-three ranking in adjusted completion percentage and NFL rating in deep passing, defined as attempts targeted at 20 yards or more. Jones has the highest completion percentage in play-action passes of any quarterback in the nation with at least 154 attempts. When it comes to quarterback pressure, no quarterback in the playoff is more reliable than No. 10 for the Crimson Tide.
Mac Jones delivers under pressure. pic.twitter.com/ns2CwMVbt4
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 30, 2019
Jones has earned the second-highest NFL rating in pass attempts under pressure.
This is also a testament to the offensive line, which has allowed just eight sacks in 64 pressured dropbacks. In comparison to his counterpart, Ian Book has been sacked 26 times in 123 pressured dropbacks. Landon Dickerson will be missed from the offensive line after undergoing successful surgery, but four other players from the second string have over 100 snaps on the season.
Defensive coordinator Pete Golding described a “come to Jesus moment” for the defense after having 21 missed tackles in a nail-biter against Ole Miss. Since that game, Alabama has had more than eight missed tackles in a game just once.
Golding called out cornerback Malachi Moore in the Rose Bowl presser for his improvement over the season. The freshman ranks 21st in the country of all defensive players in covering the slot, allowing just 1.2 yards per coverage snap.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brian Kelly did a masterful job of navigating Notre Dame through its first — and possibly last — conference slate of games.
Only Clemson and Louisville came within two possessions of ruining an undefeated regular season. The first full season for offensive coordinator Tommy Rees proved to be a success, as Notre Dame ranked top-25 in Passing Success Rate and Line Yards.
For most of the season, Notre Dame chose to protect the playbook with a heavy dose of rushing, but those ratios evened out in two games against Clemson.
Ian Book to Avery Davis for 53 yards to the Clemson 5! pic.twitter.com/i9XIW6LXTp
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) November 8, 2020
The personnel groupings were predictable for Rees, as 11 personnel had a 67% pass ratio, while the two-tight end set of 12 personnel saw a 60% run ratio.
With a healthier defense and a second look from Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, the wheels fell off the Irish offense in the ACC Championship game.
After an opening-drive field goal, Clemson allowed zero points on seven consecutive drives with the Irish offense never exceeding four minutes on any attempt.
While Notre Dame met the national average for Success Rate in offensive standard downs, the Tigers obliterated the Irish in passing downs for a Success Rate of 25% and 3.8 yards per play.
The strength of Notre Dame has been the defense, as coordinator Clark Lea spun another season with a top-25 Success Rate. Lea will move on to the Vanderbilt head coaching position after the season.
He has a long history of Havoc-minded iron trench play like his mentor Mike Elko.
Notre Dame ranks third in defensive Havoc, seventh in Line Yards and first in Stuff Rate. A pass coverage rank of 13th, per Pro Football Focus, came against a strength of schedule rank of 54th, as the leaks were exposed against Clemson.
Trevor Lawrence threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in the ACC Championship game, accumulating nine passes over 15-plus yards and an average of eight yards per play in passing downs.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The answer to any bettor’s questions is undoubtedly “YES” if the question is whether or not the point spread is inflated.
Our Action Network projections, along with SP+ and Sagarin, hover around the two-touchdown mark. Even the Sagarin “recent” weighted ratings — in which recent score-based games weigh heavier than early season results — make this game Alabama -16.
The Crimson Tide have truly eclipsed the LSU 2019 conundrum for bettors that rely on advanced analytics, as the numbers just cannot keep up with the efficiency of the team.
Notre Dame vs. Alabama Matchup Matrix
The biggest handicap in the game is whether or not the ACC Championship game was a one off fluke performance for Notre Dame.
Per PFF, the rematch with Clemson was the lowest-graded game for Notre Dame’s offense, rush defense and special teams. In comparison to the total season, this was Clark Lea’s fourth-highest grade in pass coverage.
Clemson averaged nine yards per play on 25 rushing attempts and had just four stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Simply put, the Notre Dame secondary was at a disadvantage because of a failure to stop Travis Etienne.
Travis Etienne out here reminding us why he's one of the best 👀
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) December 19, 2020
Will offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian detect what worked for Clemson and try to replicate that with Najee Harris?
There certainly has been an increase in two-tight end sets for Alabama in 2020. Sark lined the offense up in 12 personnel in just 22% of snaps in 2019, but 2020 saw a major uptick for the Tide in those formations, as Alabama ran two tight ends on 45% of snaps.
Carl Tucker has been one of the best-run blockers on the field, but Jahleel Billingsley and Miller Forristall have become viable third-down and red-zone targets.
While the focus may be on wide receivers DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III, Alabama could use a heavy dose of Harris in with two tight ends to predicate the deep pass.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is one of the best coverage defenders against the deep pass, allowing less than a half-yard per snap when targeted.
Notre Dame has not shown the ability to exploit the explosive play on defense to get into a shootout with Alabama.
Running back Kyren Williams has avoided just 35 tackles in 195 rushing attempts. The Clemson defense held Williams in check to just 3.3 yards per carry on 15 attempts. The story is the same for Irish passing targets, as tight end Michael Mayer leads the team in avoided tackles at just 11.
Book’s hot zone is between the hashes from 11 to 20 yards, an area both Moore and Patrick Surtain are expected to patrol. Quarterbacks are completing just 38% of passes when targeting Surtain this season.
Notre Dame does not have the weapons on offense or defense to upset — or possibly even cover against — Alabama.
Saban is 8-3 against the spread in the postseason against teams not named Oklahoma or Clemson. If a team does not bring offensive firepower to the table, an Alabama opponent can have a long bowl game. The best bet in this game may come from the Alabama offensive game plan and defensive efficiency.
The Crimson Tide’s increase in two-tight end sets and the Notre Dame struggles against Etienne may make this a big night for the Alabama rushing attack. An increase in attempts for Harris may keep pieces of the playbook off tape for the national championship.
There’s also a history between Kelly and Saban from the 2013 National Championship Game.
Saban took a 28-0 lead to the locker room against Kelly, and the second half was predictably boring. Of the 32 second-half plays by the Crimson Tide, 22 were rushing attempts. Considering there’s a follow-up game to this Rose Bowl, there’s no reason to show anything offensively once a three-touchdown lead is obtained.
With a projection of 66, the best bet in this game is the under. Alabama may eclipse its team total, but the better bet may be a small play on the Notre Dame team total to go under.
Pick: Under 66 or better | Notre Dame Team Total Under.