CFT Previews & Predictions: Clemson-Alabama Tale of the Tape

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WHO
No. 2 Clemson (14-0) vs. No. 1 Alabama (14-0)

WHAT
The College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Presented by AT&T

WHEN
8:00 p.m. ET (8:17 p.m. ET kickoff)

WHERE
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

HEAD COACHES
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (115-30 in 11 seasons with the Tigers; one national championship)
Alabama’s Nick Saban (142-20 in 12 seasons with the Crimson Tide, 233-62-1 overall; six national championships)

STATISTICAL LEADERS
Clemson
Passing: Trevor Lawrence, 239-365 (65.5%), 2,933 yards, 27 touchdowns, four interceptions
Rushing: Travis Etienne, 1,583 yards, 22 touchdowns
Receiving: Tee Higgins, 56 receptions, 855 yards, 11 touchdowns
Punt returns: Amari Rodgers, 7.7 yards per on 39 returns, one touchdown
Kick returns: Derion Kendrick, 23 yards per on 13 returns
Punting: Will Spiers, 39.5 yards per, 19 of 61 inside the 20
Kicking: Greg Huegel, 10-15 field goals, long of 49; 71-72 extra points
Tackles: Isaiah Simmons, 88
Tackles for loss: Clelin Ferrell, 18
Sacks: Ferrell, 11½
QB Hits: Dexter Lawrence, 15
Interceptions: Tanner Muse, A.J. Terrell, two
Passes breakups: Simmons, Terrell, K’Von Wallace, seven

Alabama
Passing: Tua Tagovailoa, 223-321 (69.5%), 3,671 yards, 41 touchdowns, four interceptions
Rushing: Damien Harris, 819 yards; Josh Jacobs, 11 touchdowns
Receiving: Jerry Jeudy, 63 receptions, 1,176 yards, 13 touchdowns
Punt returns: Jaylen Waddle, 15.1 per on 15 returns, one touchdown
Kick returns: Jacobs, 30.6 per on 13 returns, one touchdown
Punting: Mike Bernier, 37 yards per, four of 23 inside the 20
Kicking: Joseph Bulovas, 13-17 field goals, long of 49; 74-79 extra points
Tackles: Dylan Moses, 82
Tackles for loss: Quinnen Williams, 18
Sacks: Isaiah Buggs, 9½
QB Hits: Williams, Christian Miller, 12
Interceptions: Saivion Smith, three
Passes breakups: Anfernee Jennings, Shyheim Carter, 10

STATISTICAL MATCHUPS
Alabama’s 34th-ranked rush offense (202 ypg) vs. Clemson’s 2nd-ranked run defense (92.6 ypg)
Clemson’s 10th-ranked rush offense (256.3 ypg) vs. Alabama’s 19th-ranked run defense (120.3 ypg)
Alabama’s 6th-ranked pass offense (325.6 ypg) vs. Clemson’s 16th-ranked pass defense (182.1 ypg)
Clemson’s 24th-ranked pass offense (274.1 ypg) vs. Alabama’s 22nd-ranked pass defense (187.6 ypg)
Alabama’s 2nd-ranked scoring offense (47.7 ppg) vs. Clemson’s top-ranked scoring defense (12.9 ppg)
Clemson’s 4th-ranked scoring offense (44.3 ppg) vs. Alabama’s 5th-ranked scoring defense (16.1 ppg)

COMMON OPPONENTS
Texas A&M
Clemson won 28-26 Sept. 8 in College Station, Alabama won 45-23 Sept. 22 in Tuscaloosa.

Louisville
Clemson won 77-16 Nov. 3 in Clemson, Alabama won 51-14 Sept. 1 on a neutral field.

LOSSES
None for either team as this will mark the first time in the five-year history of the College Football Playoff that two undefeated teams will be playing in the national championship game.

PORTFOLIO
Wins vs. bowl teams: Clemson 11, Alabama 9
Wins vs. current CFP Top 25 teams: Clemson 3, Alabama 5
Wins in true road games: Clemson 5, Alabama 4
Wins by 10-plus points: Clemson 12, UA 13

THE BOVADA.LV LINE
Clemson, +5 (opened +6)
Over/under, 61

THE PREDICTIONS
Zach Barnett
Here’s a stat for you: in his two title bouts with Clemson, Deshaun Watson was a combined 66-of-103 for 825 yards with seven touchdowns against one interception, leading his Tigers to 40 and 35 points. In eight quarters against the most fearsome defense this side of the ’85 Bears, Watson and company averaged around 100 yards, a touchdown and field goal. If Clemson is to do the unthinkable for the second time in three years, true freshman Trevor Lawrence will have to put up similar numbers and a similar volume, keeping Alabama’s ultra-efficient offense off the field. I think they will.
Clemson 38, Alabama 34

Bryan Fisher
I’ve seen both the Tigers and the Crimson Tide win national titles before and the fourth edition of their heavyweight fight might just be the best yet. It’s got great quarterbacks, some terrific receivers and running backs, plus a host of defenders that will be playing on Sundays. Alabama will get pushed plenty by Dabo Swinney‘s side but the SEC champs have played at another gear, for the most part, this season and will wind up with Nick Saban lifting yet another trophy in a thriller out West.
Alabama 31, Clemson 27

Kevin McGuire
A season that was billed as a season-long exhibition before Alabama and Clemson square off in the national championship has delivered once again. Seeing Tua Tagovailoa appear to be just fine last week against Oklahoma was an encouraging sign for the Tide as they prepare to face the stiffest defensive challenge they have seen this season in the Tigers. The last two championship bouts between these two were instant classics, and we could very well have a third on our hands. This game has the look of a defensive battle, but the quarterback play is just too good to be stopped. In the end, Tagovailoa leads Alabama to one more critical touchdown drive than Trevor Lawrence and Alabama wins yet another championship.
Alabama 36, Clemson 31

John Taylor
I’ve picked against Alabama each of the past two title games — Georgia following the 2017 regular season, Clemson the year before — and the Crimson Tide split those meetings.  This year, Nick Saban has arguably his best squad overall during his dozen seasons in Tuscaloosa, with an offense that’s head and shoulders in the passing game above anything the future College Football Hall of Famer has ever fielded.  All of the ingredients are there for back-to-back national titles for Saban… for Saban to pass the legendary Bear Bryant for most career championships… for Saban to cement his legacy as the GOAT at this level… and yet I’m going with Dabo Swinney — with a heaping helping of Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback the likes of which ‘Bama hasn’t faced this season — to spoil yet another Tide coronation and pick up his second national championship at the expense of his nemesis the past four years.
Clemson 34, Alabama 31

WVU wideout Dillon Spalding transfers to James Madison, will play against old team in Week 1

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In the NFL, you’ll often see teams sign a player who was just cut off another team the week or two before they wind up playing that opponent. We could sort of have a college football version of that scenario in the case of wide receiver Dillon Spalding.

The former West Virginia redshirt freshman announced on Twitter that he had committed to James Madison and would be transferring to join the team in 2019. The team’s opponent in Week 1? None other than the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

Of course any knowledge Spalding might bring with him is limited given that both JMU and WVU have new coaching staffs in place this year. The former three-star recruit is moving a little closer to his Lorton, Va. hometown and will have all four years of eligibility remaining between redshirting last season due to an injury and the drop down to the FCS level.

The Dukes have added a solid amount of FBS talent recently for new coach Curt Cignetti. In addition to Spalding, former Penn State wide receiver Brandon Polk joined the program this offseason and both will catch passes from ex-Pitt QB Ben DiNucci.

Wildcats see attendance spike after allowing beer and wine sales at Arizona Stadium in 2018

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Arizona posted a disappointing 5-7 campaign in Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson but Arizona fans still came out and enjoyed themselves thanks, in part, to the school allowing beer and alcohol sales for the first time.

As the Arizona Daily Star reports, attendance for the Wildcats home football games actually ticked up last year an average of 2,804 people while incidents of ejections at the stadium did the same — though were below historic averages.

“We’ve been very pleased with the rollout across the board in Arizona Stadium and McKale,” athletic director Dave Heeke said. “This was really focused around a number of things that we’ve done in the area of fan amenities and food service, and beverage selection was a key component.”

Some 43 people were kicked out of seven home games at UA, which is double the 21 from 2017 but well below the numbers the school reported for seasons when they played in-state rival Arizona State. It seems that Territorial Cup contest was the biggest indicator of above-average ejections in a year though game-by-game data was not given.

“I really haven’t noticed an increase in any type of criminal behavior due to beer and wine sales,” UAPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Shields told the paper. “Obviously from year to year the ejections and different numbers change and they fluctuate, but it’s very hard to pinpoint the reason why those happen.”

The amount of revenue generated by beer and alcohol sales wasn’t detailed by the school but Heeke noted it covered the additional costs on game days and the profit overall wasn’t hugely significant. Still, it seems the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium was still enough to lure fans into their seats despite plenty of late starts and a football team that was largely up-and-down in 2018.

Ex-FAU defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro joins Kansas staff in off-the-field role

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Not many people can say they worked for the very different styles of head coaches Lane Kiffin and Les Miles back-to-back but Tony Pecoraro certainly can.

The recently let go Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator has apparently landed a new gig in Lawrence as a senior defensive analyst, primarily serving under Jayhawks DC D.J. Eliott.

Pecoraro took over the Owls defense in 2018 after spending the previous two seasons running things on that side of the ball for Southern Miss. Things didn’t quite work out in Boca however as FAU couldn’t get off the field like they did in Kiffin’s first year and allowed 31.8 points per game.

The veteran coordinator, who has Power Five assistant experience from a stint at Florida State, was replaced at FAU by longtime Oklahoma State DC Glenn Spencer back in December.

Wisconsin unlikely to join trend of selling beer and alcohol at football games anytime soon

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Wisconsin fans are known to hold more than their own when it comes to enjoying an adult beverage or two before, during and after Badgers football games but they apparently will have to keep waiting for the opportunity to buy a cold one at Camp Randall on game days.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a decision on whether or not to allow beer/alcohol sales in the general seating sections of the stadium rests with school chancellor Rebecca Blank and that she is not inclined to change the status quo on such prohibition anytime soon.

“The university believes that there is already an atmosphere of energy and excitement around Badger game days,” a school statement to the paper read. “The addition of alcohol to general seating areas isn’t needed to improve that experience and could detract from it for our students and fans.”

Just in the last two months, Indiana, Rutgers and Illinois have turned on the taps for football games in 2019. That will result in fully half of Big Ten schools allowing such sales in general seating areas as a result this season and it’s turned into yet another lucrative revenue stream for those that have too.

Wisconsin appears resistant to the idea however, doing so in the face of declining attendance for games too. While it is certainly too early to remark ‘never say never’ when it comes to the Badgers, it’s pretty clear this trend isn’t making its way to Madison anytime soon.