College Football Championship 2017: Clemson vs. Alabama Odds, Projected Winner

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2017

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Dabo Swinney (R) of the Clemson Tigers congraulates quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 after he scored on a one yard rushing touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Playstation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Tigers defeated the Buckeyes 31-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers took care of business in the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff, setting up a rematch in the CFP National Championship. 

As ESPN Stats & Info noted, it will be a historic matchup:

Clemson-Alabama is first championship game rematch since the title game was introduced with the BCS in 1998 #CFBPlayoff

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2017

According to OddsShark.com, Alabama is the early favorite by a surprisingly large 6.5 points. Hopefully, for the sake of college football fans, this matchup proves to be closer than the experts think. 

To prepare for the championship showdown, here's a look at the viewing information you'll need to tune in, followed by some keys to the game and a prediction for the final outcome. 

                                    

National Championship Game Viewing Information

Date: Monday, Jan. 9

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Video Play Button

            

Key For Clemson: Get Pressure on Jalen Hurts

Clemson might not get many shots at Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts dropping back to pass. In the semifinal game against Washington, Hurts attempted just 14 passes, his lowest total as a starting quarterback this season. But when Hurts does drop back to throw, Clemson will have an opportunity to pressure him into making mistakes. 

As CFB Film Room pointed out, Hurts struggles under pressure:

Jalen Hurts was 0-4 under pressure vs Washington. He's now completed just 30.3% of his pass attempts under pressure this season.

— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) January 3, 2017

The success of Washington's front seven likely played a role in Alabama's decision to limit Hurts' passing attempts. The Huskies generated 37 sacks during the season and added another three against Alabama in the semifinal game. 

Clemson boasts an even more terrifying pass rush, having generated 49 sacks through 14 games, including three against Ohio State. Carlos Watkins leads the way with 10.5 sacks. 

Alabama has a dominant left tackle in Cam Robinson, who will likely be a first-round draft pick if he turns pro. However, there are weak links in other areas on the offensive line that have likely contributed to Hurts' struggles under pressure. 

True freshman right tackle Jonah Williams has shown a lot of promise for the future, but he has struggled containing some of the better pass-rushers he's faced this season. Based on how Clemson's defense lines up, Williams will likely find himself matched up with Watkins frequently on Monday. 

                                

Key for Alabama: Establish the Run

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Bo Scarbrough #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs in a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Gett
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson's overall stats against the run are impressive. The Tigers defense ranks 19th in the nation, giving up just 3.51 yards per rush. 

Against the most talented running backs on its schedule, however, Clemson has been vulnerable. 

Dalvin Cook gashed Clemson's defense for 169 yards and four touchdowns, as Florida State nearly knocked off the Tigers in a 37-34 defeat. And in Clemson's only loss of the season, Pittsburgh's James Conner picked up 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. 

Nick Saban should already be well aware of this strategy. In last year's title game, Derrick Henry carried the ball 36 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson. 

Alabama doesn't have a running back of Henry's caliber on this year's roster, but Bo Scarbrough is coming off a career-high 180 yards in the semifinal win over Washington. 

While Scarbrough may not be on Henry's level, the 6'1", 228-pound running back does run with a similar brusing style to Henry and could present the same problems for Clemson's defense. 

By establishing the run, Alabama can control the clock and keep pressure off its young quarterback.

                        

Championship Game Prediction

Unless you're a fan of Ohio State or Washington, this is the matchup you were likely hoping for in the title game. This rare rematch will be a historic moment in college football history, and hopefully the product on the field lives up to expectations. 

When picking between two closely matched opponents, it's always the safest bet to go with the veteran quarterback. Alabama will be putting a true freshman quarterback on the biggest stage and against one of the nation's scariest pass rushes. Just one or two mistakes from Hurts could swing the momentum in Clemson's favor. 

Prediction: Clemson 30, Alabama 27

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