National Championship Notes, Analysis and Score Prediction

Miami Gardens, FL – December 30, 2018 – Hard Rock Stadium: Tua Tagovailoa (13) of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2018 Capital One Orange Bowl. (Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

It is time for my College Football Playoff National Championship Game prediction, with info and analysis, as I did all season on here on my blog, Vince’s View.

Notes below are from the league office.

SEC Bowl Games/Playoff Prediction Record: 4-7
2018 Season Prediction Record: 93-31 (75%)

Alabama vs. Clemson
Monday, January 7, 2019 • 8 p.m. ET
Santa Clara, Calif. • Levi’s Stadium (71,000)

TELEVISION: ESPN will televise the game nationally for the ninth straight year (Chris Fowler, Play-by-Play; Kirk Herbstreit, Analyst; Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi, Sidelines). ESPN has aired the game nationally since the 2011 BCS National Championship Game when Auburn defeated Oregon. ABC carried the game 1999-2006, and 2010, with Fox Sports owning broadcast rights in 2007-09.

RADIO: ESPN Radio will broadcast the game (ESPN Radio: Sean McDonough, Play-by-Play; Todd Blackledge, Analyst; Holly Rowe and Ian Fitzsimmons, Sidelines). The game is available on SiriusXM Channel 80, with the Alabama broadcast airing on Channel 84. ESPN Radio has carried the game since 1999.

THE TEAMS: Alabama (14-0, 8-0 SEC) will face ACC Champion Clemson (14-0) in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. This will mark the third Alabama vs. Clemson national championship game in the last four seasons, and the fourth straight year the two have met in the College Football Playoff. Alabama is looking to win its sixth national championship since 2009, while Clemson is aiming to secure its second in the last three seasons.

NATIONAL RANKINGS:  Alabama is the No. 1-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings, while Clemson is ranked No. 2 by the CFP. This is the third time in the five year history of the College Football Playoff the No. 1 and No. 2 teams have advanced to the championship game, both of which featured Alabama versus Clemson. The No. 2-ranked team won the previous two matchups, while the No. 1 team is yet to win the national championship in the College Football Playoff era.

SEC IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: This will mark the 12th time in the last 13 seasons, and 14th overall since 1998, a team from the SEC has advanced to the national championship game. Nine times since 2006 the SEC has won the college football national championship. Overall, the SEC has won 11 of the previous 20 national championship games since the 1998 season, while appearing in 13 prior to this season.

SERIES: Monday’s game will be the 19th meeting all-time between the Crimson Tide and Clemson and the fourth in as many seasons – all coming in the College Football Playoff. Alabama holds the all-time advantage, 14-4, including a 2-1 mark in the Playoffs. The two teams last met in the 2018 CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in New Orleans, La., with UA posting a dominant 24-6 win over the Tigers inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

SEC IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF: The SEC is now 7-3 all-time in College Football Playoff games, playing in four of the five national championship games, while winning two of the previous four. The SEC is 5-1 in CFP Semifinals, and 6-2 overall in CFP games not versus each other. The SEC leads the nation with six teams advancing to the Playoff since its inception in 2014. The league also leads the nation in the CFP era with championship game appearances (5) and championship game victories (2).

POINT SPREAD: Alabama -5 ½

VINCE’S VIEW: This game is very closely matched with an absurd amount of elite college football talent, future NFL high draft picks and stars, the two top programs that have it all and the sport’s best coaches.

When you compare the major statistical categories of these two teams side-by-side, the “worst” national ranking in any category is Clemson’s turnover margin being 38th. Almost every category for both teams shows national ranks in the Top 10 and 25. The numbers match the eye test, that’s for sure.

I believe offense will largely rule in this game, much like the 2nd semifinal game, but not quite that devoid of defense. I think it will be closer to the 2017 NCG in scoring more than last season’s CFP semifinal win for Alabama. You’ll see some stops, but the dominant moments should come from the offense. Something else that could slow down both teams is the field conditions with the wet weather in the Bay Area. That could keep the score down just a skosh.

The offensive talent and execution will rise above individual defensive stars on both sides, especially on the two defensive lines. Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, barring another injury, should be spectacular once again with all of those wide receiver weapons to go with his unmatched ability to pass the pigskin. All three top Tide RBs are great, but Josh Jacobs was electric against Oklahoma. Let’s see if he can follow that up against Clemson’s big boys, Wilkins, Ferrell and others.

The player that I think will have a big game and maybe be the difference maker is Bama TE Irv Smith. I don’t see how Clemson will be able to devote coverage attention to Alabama’s phenomenal wideouts and still have good enough cover people and schemes to defend him.

Clemson has an embarrassment of riches on offense as well with QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Travis Etienne and the group of WRs…Justyn Ross, Knoxville’s Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers and veteran Hunter Renfroe. They’ll have success against the Tide’s backend. The key for Clemson is to not have to play from behind multiple scores where they abandon the very important run game.

Plenty of other areas are pretty even as well, like the offensive lines, the kicking game and the intangibles. For those that care about the Vegas lines, both teams are an identical 8-6 against the spread this season, so they are evenly matched there as well.

I think Alabama’s defense is a little deeper and will make a key stop necessary to make the difference. As good as Clemson’s defense is, it hasn’t been challenged even close to what it will Monday night with UA’s offense. I could see Clemson with the football, down 4 points and driving to try and score the winning TD, but it ending in a stop for Alabama to win it. This should be another classic between college football’s two juggernauts on their own level separate from everybody else.

VINNY’S SCORE PREDICTION: Alabama 31 Clemson 27

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