The college football “final four” is set, with Alabama (13-0) leading the way at number one, as they’ve been all season, followed by Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma at two, three and four, respectively. The Crimson Tide opened at +250 to win their sixth National Title in the Nick Saban era, and have been under even money for most of the year. Currently, they hover at -260 at most sportsbooks. Those odds are wholly unappealing, especially if Tua Tagovailoa and his ankle aren’t at 100 percent, but can Alabama be beaten? Let’s take a look at their competition.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-0)
Opening Odds: 30-1
Current Odds: 12-1
Oddsmakers aren’t giving undefeated Notre Dame much respect, as they’re the longest shot on the board behind Oklahoma, who has to go through Alabama first. Perhaps it’s deserved, as they beat just three ranked opponents all season.
Ian Book was a significant upgrade over Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, but the Irish offense (34th by points per game) is rather ordinary compared to the other three teams left standing. And their defense should have its hands full with the Tigers’ dynamic offense in the Cotton Bowl, where they’re currently 11-point underdogs.
The verdict: Fade.
Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)
Opening Odds: 25-1
Current Odds: 10-1
Sooners signal caller Kyler Murray has been equally as exciting to watch as Tua Tagovailoa this season, but the Crimson Tide defense presents a significantly stronger challenge than any Big 12 defensive unit. That goes a long way in explaining why Oklahoma is a two-touchdown underdog to Alabama in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29.
The Tide should shred the Sooners’ 96th-rated defense by points per game allowed en route to another National Title game appearance.
The verdict: Fade.
Clemson Tigers (13-0)
Opening Odds: 5-1
Current Odds: 3-1
Dabo Sweeney’s Clemson Tigers beat Alabama in a title game thriller in 2016 and could do so again.
Freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence has over 2,600 yards passing this season and averages nearly eight yards per attempt. He struggles with accuracy at times (65 percent for the season) but has surrendered just four INTs compared to 24 TDs.
Clemson’s solid passing attack is supplemented by the brilliant running back Travis Etienne (8.3 yards per carry on 176 attempts), who’s accounted for 21 TDs this year. Their defense is downright scary at times, as they allowed 10 points or fewer in six of their last eight games, including the ACC Championship Game over Pitt (42-10).
The verdict: Bet.