College Football Playoff preview: Sugar Bowl showdown

College Football Playoff preview: Sugar Bowl showdown article feature image

Welcome to College Football Playoff Sugar Bowl portion of the Action Network’s 2017-18 College Football Bowl Preview. Make sure you subscribe to our Degen and Juice podcast for even more in-depth weekly bowl previews.

This preview integrates a combination of point spreads, advanced statistics, motivational angles and coaching changes. You can follow all of my plays for free on the SportsAction App through the [App Store] or [Google Play].

All lines taken from Pinnacle as of Dec. 27.

All stats updated following the CFB regular season. All advanced stats via Football Outsiders.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Teams: Alabama vs. Clemson
Location: New Orleans
Date: January 1st, 8:45 PM EST

Current CW S&P+ Total
Alabama -3 Alabama -1.5 Alabama -3.5 47


Notes: A rematch of last year’s national championship game comes to New Orleans. Clemson ended the season smoking hot, winning the ACC Championship game 38-3 over Miami. The extended layoff could affect the rhythm Kelly Bryant found against South Carolina and Miami, however. Alabama ended the regular season with a loss to Auburn, missing the SEC Championship Game but getting a playoff spot over Ohio State.

There is a big difference between Deshaun Watson and Kelly Bryant, especially when it comes to explosiveness and efficiency. The 2016 Clemson offense was explosive and could score at any point in the game, but the 2017 version ranks 119th in the nation in explosiveness. Expect few gains over 20 yards, with Alabama ranking eighth in defending explosiveness. Clemson has been able to bank on moving the chains with the 14th ranked offense in efficiency (11th in Rushing S&P+). Clemson’s bread and butter is scoring on multiple play drives while masking an offensive line that ranks 74th in adjusted sack rate. Kelly Bryant has made a living on the quarterback draw in 2017.

Alabama’s game plan will be simple: Stop Clemson from controlling clock and rely on Jalen Hurts run-pass option to make big plays. Hurts will be reviewing plenty of game film from last year’s championship game.

Alabama is fifth in standard downs S&P+, but Clemson is 11th in the nation at preventing third-down conversions. Expect the Tide to look for chunk plays early, as passing downs defense is Clemson’s specialty; the Tigers rank first in passing down defense S&P+ and passing down defense success rate. This game should be light on points, but the team with the ability to make big plays should end up on top. Don’t expect much scoring, with Alabama and Clemson ranking first and second in points per game allowed (11.5 and 12.8, respectively). Look for Alabama to make the key plays in a low-scoring first half (under 23.5) and full game (47).

Useless Trend

  • Alabama is 2-5 ATS in its past seven games

The Pick: Alabama -3

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