When you think of college football, what names come to mind? If you’re like most college football fans, you won’t need to go too far down the list to get to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Well, what better way to ring in the New Year than having two of the five winningest teams in the history of the sport competing in the Rose Bowl in the College Football Playoffs semifinals? This year’s Rose Bowl will be moved from its home in Pasadena, California to Arlington, Texas because of the state of California’s current ban on spectator sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fighting Irish have gone just 5-6 against the spread this season, while the over-under is 6-5 in their 11 games. They have failed to cover the spread in each of their last two games. The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, is 8-3 against the spread. They failed to cover the spread in last week’s SEC Championship Game, which broke a streak of seven straight games in which they had covered the spread. The total has gone over in 7 of Alabama’s 11 games this season.
(Late line movements and injury reports were updated on Thursday evening.)
The line has moved slightly toward Notre Dame for this contest as the week has gone on. Alabama opened as a 19.5-point favorite when the lines came out and, as of Thursday evening, now stands as an 18.5 or 19-point favorite at the majority of sportsbooks for this contest. 61 percent of the bets ATS are backing the Crimson Tide giving the points as they look to earn the victory in the Rose Bowl. The winner advances to next week’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
The total for this contest has moved down slightly during this week. After opening at 67 points, the total has moved down to 65.5 points at the majority of sportsbooks. A hefty 78 percent of the bets on the total for this contest are backing this one going over the number.
Game-time Weather: AT&T Stadium is a retractable-roof stadium. That means that weather will not be a factor here as it will be a toasty 68 degrees indoors with no wind or precipitation in the forecast.
Fighting Irish hold on to playoff spot despite lopsided lossThere hasn’t been a lot of controversy surrounding college football this season, until the ACC Championship Game, that is. The top four teams for most of the season have been (in no particular order) Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Ohio State. With the Fighting Irish ranked second in the polls heading into the ACC Championship Game, most people conceded that they would be in the playoffs with a win or a competitive loss. After all, they were playing the number three team in the country, so how far would they drop with a loss to a top-three team. Not too many people envisioned a scenario in which Notre Dame was blown out, but that is exactly what happened.
The Fighting Irish, who are fifth all-time in wins with 918, dropped just two spots in the rankings after their lopsided, 34-10 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game on December 19. It was the second meeting of the season between these two teams, with Notre Dame winning the first matchup by a score of 47-40 in double overtime on November 7. In the first meeting, however, the Tigers, who were ranked number one at the time, were without quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is probably going to be the number one pick in next year’s NFL draft. The Fighting Irish’s status is elevated because of that win, but why are they not penalized for a 12-7 win over the Louisville Cardinals, who ended the season with a 4-7 record? Until the College Football Playoffs expand to eight teams, or their is a rule change that says that you have to win your conference championship in order to qualify for the CFP, the four-team playoff will continue to be a much-debated and much-maligned process.
In the rematch, Notre Dame scored the first three points of the game, but it was all Clemson after that, as the Tigers rattled off 34 straight points to leave no doubt about who the best ACC team is. The Fighting Irish scored a meaningless fourth quarter touchdown to close the final margin to 24 points. Notre Dame was thoroughly dominated in the game, as Clemson had more than twice as many total yards (541-263). The Fighting Irish managed just 44 yards rushing, and 1.5 yards per carry. Ian Book, who has had an excellent season in 2020, did complete over 70% of his passes in the game, but threw for just 219 yards and no touchdowns. Their running game was led by Kyren Williams, who entered the game with over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, but had just 50 yards in the ACC Championship Game.
“We let the second quarter get away from us, and that was the difference in the game,” head coach Brian Kelly said on espn.com.
The Fighting Irish did have one other win over a ranked opponent this season, a 31-17 win over North Carolina on November 27, and eight of their 10 wins have been by double digits. Book has two 300-yard passing games on his resume this season, and he has thrown for 2,601 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. This is a down year for him, though, as he threw for over 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. Williams is averaging 5.4 yards per carry this season, and has 1,061 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns for the season. Javon McKinley has been their top receiver this season, catching 40 passes for 697 yards, while Ben Skowronek leads the team with five touchdown receptions.
Norte Dame’s offense is averaging 35.2 points per game this season, while they are giving up just 18.6 points per game. They are eighth in the country in time of possession this season, as they average 33:56 per game. The Fighting Irish are averaging 455.1 yards per game, while they are giving up just 335.1 yards per game this season. Their strength is in the running game on both sides of the ball, as they are averaging 217.6 yards rushing per game, while they are giving up just 110.5 yards on the ground per game this season.
Notre Dame Injury Report:
OUT: DL Jayson Ademilola, WR Braden Lenzy, LB Paul Moala, OL Jarrett Patterson, RB Jahmir Smith
Crimson Tide back in CFP after one-year hiatusThe Alabama Crimson Tide, who are third in college football history with 927 wins, are back in a familiar spot, the College Football Playoffs. After a ‘down’ year last season, in which they lost a whopping two games, and missed the four-team playoff for the first time since its inception in 2014, the Crimson Tide have left no doubt who the number one team in college football is this season. They cemented their spot in the semifinals with a 52-46 win over the seventh-ranked Florida Gators in the SEC Championship on December 19.
There were over 1,000 yards combined between Alabama and Florida in the game, as the Crimson Tide never trailed. Both quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards, as Alabama’s Mac Jones completed over 76% of his passes for 418 yards and five touchdowns. Najee Harris scored a total of five touchdowns (two rushing and three receiving), as he rushed for 178 yards and caught five passes for 67 yards. Devonta Smith continued his outstanding season, as he caught 15 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
“Those guys are pretty phenomenal. They have been all year,” head coach Nick Saban said on espn.com. “They certainly delivered tonight when we needed them to.”
The Florida game was, by far, the toughest test of the season for Alabama this season. Their closest game before that game was a 15-point win over Ole Miss back on October 10. The Crimson Tide are the second-highest scoring team in the nation this season, averaging 49.7 points per game. Their lowest total of the season has been 38 points, in their opener against Missouri. Alabama has scored over 60 points twice and over 50 points six times, including each of their last three games. Their defense has been pretty good this season. Before the Florida game, they had given up a total of 36 points in their previous five games combined. For the season, the Crimson Tide are giving up 19.5 points per game this season. They are fifth in the country in total yards per game (543.9) and passing yards per game (354.1), while their opponents are gaining 351.2 yards per game, and just 107.6 yards per game on the ground.
Jones is having a Heisman-worthy season, as he has completed 76.5% of his passes for 3,739 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. He has four 400-yard passing games this season. Harris has rushed for 1,262 yards and has 24 rushing touchdowns, while Smith has 98 catches for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdown catches. Kicker Will Reichard has made all 85 kicks this season (73 extra points and 12 field goals).
Alabama Injury Report:
OUT: OL Landon Dickerson, RB Trey Sanders, WR Jaylen Waddle
Questionable: DL LaBryan Ray
Trends found on covers.com:
- The Crimson Tide are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game
- The Crimson Tide are 5-0 ATS in their last five games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game
- The Crimson Tide are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS loss
- The Fighting Irish are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games after accumulating less than 275 total yards in their previous game