College football showdown Saturday betting preview

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Updated: October 2, 2015

This Saturday features a number of premier college football matchups, as a host of ranked opponents are primed and ready to butt heads and knock each other down in the standings. The two games on most people’s watch lists though are Alabama versus Georgia and Notre Dame versus Clemson.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors in these ones:

Alabama/Georgia 

Betting line: UGA -1, over/under 51.5

Defense matters: Alabama always fields one of the better defenses in the country, and this year is no different. Nick Saban’s group is currently 12th in the nation in total defense and is allowing only 17.5 PPG. Georgia’s talented bunch is right there with them, currently sitting at 14th in total defense and 13th in scoring defense, giving up only 13.5 points per game.

Fast start: Greyson Lambert is making the most of his fresh opportunity with the Bulldogs. The transfer from Virginia has gotten off to a roaring start thus far, connecting on 76.5 percent of his pass attempts for 733 yards. He has also yet to throw an interception. Lambert benefits from playing in an offense loaded with weapons, including star running back Nick Chubb (who is averaging a healthy 8.4 yards per carry, Sony Michel (dual threat back), and wideout Malcom Mitchell. Bama’s run defense was stellar last week, and will need to be at its best to contain a player of Chubb’s caliber.

Kiffin in the spotlight: Working with an unsettled QB situation, perennial target ‘Baby’ Lane Kiffin will have to come up with a great game plan this weekend. His best bet is to ram Beast Mode 2.0, Derrick Henry, into UGA’s defensive front as much as possible and turn this one into a blood bath. Kiffin needs to keep Georgia’s offense off the field, work the clock, and put Jake Coker into manageable situations.

Trends: The total has gone “over” in five straight head-to-head meetings between these two schools. Georgia is 11-1 SU in its last 12 home games.

Prediction: Having already suffered an early season loss, ‘Bama finds itself in a must-win situation as a second straight conference loss would mark the end of their hopes of making the playoffs. UGA is ripe for a big win and has the home-field on their side, but Alabama is just too deep and too well-coached to lose this one.

Notre Dame/Clemson 

Betting line: Clemson -1.5, over/under 51.5

Home and away: Brian Kelly is one of the top minds in all of college football, but even his squads have struggled on the road in recent years against tough competition. The Irish are just 2-5 away from home against ranked teams during his tenure, with both wins coming back in 2012. Death Valley is a hostile environment to play in for opponents, and the Tigers have dominated at home in the seven seasons Dabo Swinney has been at the helm (41-6 record). The last time Clemson played in a game of this magnitude at home was back in 2013, when Jameis Winston lead Flordia State to a 51-14 thrashing of the Tigers. Dabo is hoping for a better effort out of his players this time around.

Must stop Prosise: DeShone Kizer has done a great job taking over the reins for the injuried Malik Zaire, but his job has been made markedly easier by the exploits of C.J. Prosise. All Prosise has done after four games is rush for 600 yards, the most ever by an Irish back in the first four contests of a season. Clemson once again boasts a fast and athletic defense (currently ranked ninth nationally), but must match the physicality of Notre Dame’s offensive line in order to put Kizer in difficult passing situations.

How good are they?: It’s a valid question for each team, as both have gotten fat on weak opponents. Clemson had its way with both Wofford and Appalachian State, and its victory over Louisville looks less impressive in hindsight as the Cardinals have dropped three of their first four games. The Irish meanwhile have beaten Texas (1-3), Virginia (1-3), Georgia Tech (2-2), and…Massachusetts. Needless to say, these game will the toughest challenge encountered thus far for both squads.

Trends: Clemson is 8-3 ATS in their past 11 games versus teams with a winning record, while Notre Dame has only covered the spread once in their past five road games. The Irish scores tend to go “over” (eight out their last ten), while the Tigers have been trending towards the “under”, especially at home (seven out of their last eight home games).

Prediction: Notre Dame has played admirably in 2015, especially given the number of season-ending injuries that have decimated their roster. And as much as I think that Kelly is far superior to Swinney as a coach, at some point the attrition will catch up to them. I think it will be this week, with Deshaun Watson finding holes in an Irish defense that has proven itself susceptible to big plays. Clemson in a close one, covering the spread.

 

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