The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0) will take on a familiar foe in the No. 2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) for the 2018-19 National Championship. It’s the fourth straight year these two programs have met in the college football playoffs and the third time during this stretch that they will be playing for the title. The winner will be the first to go 15-0 and win the National Championship.

Alabama won 45-40 to secure the 2015-16 title. Clemson came back the very next year in the championship game and beat the Crimson Tide 35-31. Last year’s meeting came in the semifinals, which Alabama won in a bit of a blowout 24-6. The Tigers covered both title matchups, while the Crimson Tide covered last year as a slim 3.5-point favorite. Each of the first two meetings went OVER the total and last year’s contest stayed UNDER.

Kickoff for this winner take all showdown between the SEC and ACC is set for 8:00 EST on Monday, January 7th at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. Oddsmakers opened with Alabama as a 6-point favorite, but that number is down to -5.5 and even -5 at some places. The total opened at 60 and is down to 59.5 or 59, depending on where you shop.

College Football Playoffs: Championship Game Preview & Odds

Everyone expected Clemson to be one of the best teams in the country, but it wasn’t until head coach Dabo Swinney inserted true freshman Trevor Lawrence into the starting lineup that this team became a serious threat to take down Alabama and win it all. Those that though the big stage would get to the young signal caller were dead wrong. Lawrence carved up a good Notre Dame defense in the Tigers 30-3 blowout win over the Irish. Lawrence completed 27 or 39 attempts for 327 yards and 3 scores. Just as impressive as Lawrence was the Clemson defense, which held Notre Dame to just 248 total yards and 17 first downs.

When Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts in the Crimson Tide’s come-from-behind win over Georgia in last year’s title game, people were already starting to talk about how Alabama would be unstoppable this season. For the most part those critics were spot on. At least up the SEC Championship Game, when Hurts had to replace Tagovailoa and guide Alabama from 14-down to a 35-28 win. Tua had surgery on his ankle after that game against Georgia and many wondered how he would fair against Oklahoma. Just fine. Tagovailoa went 24 of 27 for 318 yards and 4 scores in Alabama’s 45-34 win.

Alabama vs Clemson Vegas Free Pick & Betting Predictions: Clemson +6

My early lean here would be to take the points with Clemson. This is a pretty easy one for me, as I actually like the Tigers to win this game outright. I think Clemson has quietly been sitting there all season listening to everyone talk about how this Alabama team is the best team yet under Nick Saban and no one is getting in the way of them winning the title. I’m not about to say the Crimson Tide aren’t an elite team, I just think the Tigers are every bit as good and this line should be closer to a pick’em than a touchdown.

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Both of these teams have elite young quarterbacks, who will be playing in the NFL before we know it, so for me it’s all about which defense I trust more to get off the field. I just think the edge has to Clemson on that side of the ball. Even with Dexter Lawrence likely unavailable, the Tigers still have three elite talents on their defensive line. While the guys up front get all the attention, and rightfully so, Clemson has some dudes in the secondary and I think they have the better defensive backs.

For me it just seems like Alabama gets these huge guys that are great at stopping the run, but aren’t the fastest in open space and struggle to play coverage. A big reason why I think a lot of linebackers who were stars at Alabama, have not had the greatest careers in the NFL. The biggest thing for me is how the Crimson Tide defense struggle in their last two games, giving up 301 passing yards to Georgia and 308 to Oklahoma. They also gave up 150+ rushing yards in both of those games.

Another thing for me is that while Tagovailoa put up great numbers against Oklahoma, I still don’t think he’s 100% and just doesn’t offer that scrambling presence that he did earlier in the season. He only rushed for 9 yards on 5 attempts against the Sooners. Not having that mobility against this Clemson defensive front could very well make all the difference in this game. Give me Clemson +6!