Jan 7, 2019

The national championship: Prepare yourself for points

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Data: ESPN; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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Although Alabama and Clemson will meet in their third National Championship in four years tonight (they met in the semifinals the other year), there are still plenty of fresh storylines heading into the game.

The big picture: In their last three meetings, the highest Alabama ranked in points per game nationally was No. 15 (2017-18), while the highest Clemson ranked was No. 14 (2016-17). This season, Alabama ranked No. 2 (47.7 points per game) and Clemson ranked No. 4 (44.3 points per game), as both teams ascended to offensive juggernaut status.

  • It should be noted that they both allow very few points (Alabama ranked No. 5 in points allowed; Clemson ranked No. 1), but that was the case in all three of their previous playoff matchups, so the improved offenses are the key variable to watch.

More storylines:

  • NFL scouts will be busy: Tonight's game could feature 20 or more 2019 NFL draft picks. For comparison, the LSU-Alabama "Game of the Century" in 2011 featured 13.
  • Tua Tagovailoa vs. Trevor Lawrence: This might surprise you, but quarterback play matters quite a bit in football. Who knew?!
  • Dexter-less: Clemson will be without suspended star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence for the second straight game. The Tigers held up fine without him against Notre Dame, but Alabama's deep backfield presents a far more daunting challenge.
  • Empty seats: Due to location (Santa Clara is a trek for both fan bases) and a variety of other factors, ticket prices are historically low and the game might not even sell out — even with over 400 members(!) of Tua's family in attendance.

Details:

  • When: 8 pm ET, ESPN (with a variety of other ways to watch)
  • Lines: ALA -5.5 | O/U: 58 | Money: ALA -215 / CLEM: +180 (via Westgate Superbook)

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