Finding value in CFP national title lookahead lines

Finding value in CFP national title lookahead lines article feature image

Jan 8, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney takes a photo as Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban walks off-stage with the trophy during the head coaches news conference at the Tampa Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

As everyone gets ready for the College Football Playoff later tonight, we wanted to take an early look at the four potential national championship matchups.

Advanced statistics updated following the conclusion of the college football regular season from Football Outsiders.

Alabama vs. Oklahoma

Spread CW S&P+ Total
Alabama -3 Alabama -1.5 Alabama +4.5 62.5


In this potential blockbuster, we would see the No. 1 team in total offense (Oklahoma) take on the No. 1 team in total defense. Alabama could jump out to a critical early lead, as they have their best success on offense in the first quarter (third in S&P+ Offense), and would take on an Oklahoma defense that struggles in the first more than any other quarter (91st in S&P+ Defense).

In any Oklahoma game, you have to look at IsoPPP+ (which measures explosiveness), as the Sooners’ offense ranks No. 1 in the metric. However, Alabama might actually have the advantage in this department, as the Crimson Tide can contain Oklahoma with their elite defense that ranks fourth overall in IsoPPP+. Additionally, the Alabama offense, ranked ninth in IsoPPP+, can take advantage of a Sooner defense ranked 75th in that same category.

Don’t sleep on the hidden yardage, especially in the punting game. Alabama ranks second in opponent punt yards per attempt, which trumps Oklahoma’s No. 128 ranking. Alabama also commits significantly fewer penalties (ranked 29th in penalty yards compared to 100th for Oklahoma).

Alabama vs. Georgia

Spread CW S&P+ Total
Alabama -3 Alabama -1 Alabama -2 43.5


In a potential all-SEC matchup that only a certain section of the country would love, Alabama could shut down Georgia’s powerful rushing attack. Alabama boasts the second-ranked S&P+ Rush Defense, a necessity against a Georgia offense that ranks eighth in S&P+ Rush Offense.

Both teams have very similar statistical profiles, and both head coaches have a significant level of familiarity with one another, which I think would lend itself to the under in this particular matchup.

In regards to the side, red zone success could ultimately decide the winner. The Bulldogs score on 95.7 percent of their red zone drives (fifth in the country), compared to 85.1 percent for Alabama (47th in the country). In a matchup of two very similar teams, one failed red zone trip could easily swing the game.

Clemson vs. Oklahoma

Spread CW S&P+ Total
Clemson PK Clemson -1 Clemson -3 62.5


In the anti-SEC matchup, Clemson’s defensive line, ranked first in the nation in adjusted sack rate, would have a big advantage over an Oklahoma offensive line ranked 72nd in the same metric.

Clemson’s defense, ranked third in overall havoc rate, would create many more opportunities for momentum changing plays than an Oklahoma defense that ranks 93rd in overall havoc rate. The Tigers’ defense also has the explosiveness box checked, as they rank second in IsoPPP+.

On offense, Clemson would sustain long drives, with an offense that ranks fifth in third-down conversion percentage against a defense ranked 72nd in opponent third-down conversion percentage. However, if the game stays tight throughout, Oklahoma would have the advantage in the kicking game. The Sooners rank 26th in field goal value per kick, compared to 107th for Clemson.

Clemson vs. Georgia

Spread CW S&P+ Total
Clemson -3 Clemson PK Georgia -1.5 44


Clemson’s defensive line, ranked first in the nation in standard downs sack rate, would have a lot of success generating pressure against a Georgia offensive line ranked outside of the top 100 in standard downs sack rate.

Don’t expect too many big plays through the air from a Clemson offense that ranks 121st in passing explosiveness, especially against a Georgia defense that ranks 23rd in the same category.

Again, Clemson fans should have some concerns about their kicking game, especially in this particular matchup. Georgia ranks fifth in field goal percentage, Clemson 111th.

Photo via John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Be part of the Action

Download the Sports Action app at the [App Store] or [Google Play]