The SEC’s University of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa and the ACC’s Clemson University is in Clemson, South Carolina. The schools are only about 325 miles apart. Yet before the 2015 college football season they had played just once since 1975 (2008).
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On Monday night at Levi’s Stadium outside San Francisco, the Crimson Tide and Tigers play in the College Football Playoff for the fourth year in a row and third time in the national championship game. The Tide are 6-point favorites. It’s the first time in college football history two teams have met in a bowl game a fourth straight season.
The College Football Playoff is only in its fifth year so it might be too soon to classify anything as a trend. However, one is working against the Tide – the only school to make all five editions of the playoff. That being the top seed has yet to win it all (neither has a No. 3, but that’s a story for another day).
No. 4 Ohio State won the first CFP championship. In the national title game following the 2015 season, No. 2 Alabama beat No. 1 Clemson 45-40. In the title game the next year, the No. 2 Tigers knocked off the No. 1 Tide 35-31. Last season, No. 1 Clemson was beaten in the semifinals by No. 4 Alabama, 24-6, which then beat No. 3 Georgia in OT for a sixth national championship for Coach Nick Saban, including one at LSU.
Should Saban win a seventh, he would break a tie with former legendary Bama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most in FBS history.
This is also the first CFP title game to feature unbeaten schools; the winner will become the first FBS program with a 15-win season since Penn in 1897. No shock that Alabama is favored again as the Tide have been favored in every single game this century but one. They were very slight dogs at Georgia in the 2015 season and won easily. Clemson is an underdog for only the fifth time in the past three seasons.
Both starting quarterbacks, Alabama sophomore Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson true freshman Trevor Lawrence, will face the opposing team for the first time. Tua was a backup to Jalen Hurts last year and Lawrence was in high school. They became the second and third players to throw for at least 300 yards and three TDs in a College Football Playoff game during easy semifinal wins.
Monday’s game also could have an impact on the early Heisman betting lines for 2019. Tagovailoa, this season’s runner-up, is the current leader but could be passed by Lawrence if he severely outplays Tua in a Clemson victory.
Clemson is an excellent 8-1 ATS in its past nine bowl games, while Alabama is 1-5 ATS in its past six January games.