Alabama injuries give Clemson edge in CFP semifinal in Sugar Bowl

Updated December 29, 2017 - 7:09 pm

I made Clemson a 3-point favorite over Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Tigers are 3-point underdogs to the Crimson Tide in a rematch of the past two national championship games.

The loss of five-star true freshman linebacker Dylan Moses is costly for Alabama. Moses, who suffered a foot injury in practice during bowl preparations, made 21 tackles in Alabama’s last two regular-season games after senior defensive leader Shaun Dion Hamilton went down with a season-ending injury.

I like the matchup of Clemson’s elite defense against an Alabama offense that struggled mightily in a 26-14 loss at Auburn in the regular-season finale. The Tigers just look like the better team and they’ve covered the number in seven straight postseason games with six outright victories.

Four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Washington (+2½) over Penn State, Fiesta Bowl, Saturday: It certainly isn’t the complete basis of this play, but we’ll note the loss of the Nittany Lions offensive coordinator. That didn’t work out too well for Missouri with its offensive coordinator Josh Huepel gone to take the coaching job at Central Florida. Washington’s defense played lights out while whipping Washington State 41-14 its last time out in the Apple Cup. The Huskies have the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense (14.5 ppg) and No. 2 rushing defense.

Louisville (-6½) over Mississippi State, TaxSlayer Bowl, Saturday: The Cardinals have won and covered their last three games and four of five. Louisville has played its best football of the season in its last three blowout wins over Virginia (38-21), Syracuse (56-10) and Kentucky (44-17). The Bulldogs are playing without their coach, defensive coordinator and star quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald. Former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson will lead the Cardinals to the win and cover.

Memphis-Iowa State (Over 66), Liberty Bowl, Saturday: The over is 9-3 overall for the Tigers, who have seen their games average scores of 81.1 points. The over has hit in five of Memphis’ past six games. Tigers quarterback Riley Ferguson has thrown for 36 TDs with nine interceptions. Memphis also has the best kick returner in the country in Tony Pollard, who has four special-teams TDs.

Central Florida-Auburn (Under 67½), Peach Bowl, Monday: Auburn has had only two totals in the 60s and went under 68 in a 42-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Only two of the Tigers’ 13 games have eclipsed 68 points. The Tigers have seen their games average 51.7 total points and the under has cashed in each of Auburn’s last three games. Also, UCF’s three-year starting tackle Aaron Evans is out with an injury.

Last week: 1-3 against the spread

Season: 42-37-2

Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @vegasbedwards on Twitter.

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