News & Analysis

College Greenline: Spread pick for the college football National Championship

Bowl season has brought quality appetizers, but the main course is yet to be served. My bowl preview picks and semifinal written plays went 4-3, with a 2-0 hit on semifinal matchups. Overall, we still sit slightly above average on the season at 44-42-1 (51.2%) but are down less than a unit when factoring in vig price. Just over 62% of bets when printed have held steady or improved to pick up closing line value. A festivity of Tiger vs. Tiger action awaits in one of the most anticipated College Football National Championships in recent memory. Below, we dive into the strong lean Greenline has as we get set for the pinnacle of college football between LSU and Clemson. 

CLEMSON TIGERS (+5.5) VS LSU TIGERS

Why Clemson covers:

Looking to repeat as national champions, it is safe to assume Clemson knows what to expect Monday night. Similar to last season, Clemson enters with points against an SEC team that has overshadowed them throughout the season. Joe Burrow has looked unbeatable, and his emergence has rocketed LSU into the driver's seat for the National Championship. It has been quite some time since a team pegged for the middle of the pack has separated as swiftly as LSU has this season. With that success comes praise and accolades, which Burrow rightfully deserves. But there are still questions that need to be answered. Burrow has had historic output from situations that tend to be more descriptive than predictive. For example, his play from a pressured pocket and success throwing into tight windows are gaudy, but these stats don’t predict future success in the given categories. In saying this, Burrow is the only significant edge that LSU potentially has over Clemson, and they are still laying 5.5 points. Clemson puts forth the better Massey defensive unit rating. Their offensive line has graded over 10 points better than LSU and has allowed pressure two-thirds of the time. Everyone would lean toward Travis Etienne in comparing running backs. The only remaining question is the wide receiver position. 

The realistic assumption is that LSU has gotten too much hype — or, put into gambling terms, too much steam from the public. If the edge leans toward Clemson in every matchup outside of quarterback play, has the market moved too much in the direction of LSU? The quarterbacks in this matchup will likely be the first overall picks of the next two drafts, so the edge LSU potentially holds is small. Typically, the better team would be laying points facing off against the better player. This is the perfect setup to fade the public on LSU’s perfect season with the better team getting points to repeat as national champions.  

What could go wrong:

It's a tale as old as time. A player comes out of nowhere, turns into the best seemingly overnight, wins every game including the championship and rides off to get selected first overall. Joe Burrow, by every definition, has been the best player in college football this season. This narrative has the full support of the public, with this line jumping almost two full points since the initial open. It briefly touched six before settling into 5.5. Anything over a field-goal favorite is significant value for the underdog Tigers. If LSU is able to emerge victorious, more simulations have them doing so by a field goal vs. touchdown spread. At 5.5, Greenline gives Clemson’s cover probability a 57.2% chance, with a heroic effort from Joe Burrow needed to gain that many points on a once-in-a-generation Clemson squad.  

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