Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson will likely be at or near the top of Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings.
The three power-conference schools are a combined 26-1 — ‘Bama owns the only loss — and are considered by many to be the three schools most likely to make the national title game.
So, how would they stack up?
We spoke to Brian Edwards, senior handicapper at VegasInsider.com, to sort it out.
“I would make Alabama a favorite against anybody,” he said in a phone call Tuesday afternoon.
Edwards has ‘Bama No. 1 in his power rankings, thanks to a Tide front seven that he says could overpower any offensive line in the nation. Here are his thoughts on specific matchups:
Alabama vs. Clemson
Edwards’ line: Alabama -5
Chris Andrews’ line (AgainstTheNumber.com): Alabama -4.5
“The way Clemson has handled teams, certainly, is worth a lot of credit,” Edwards said. “I just feel like Alabama has beaten some more quality opponents.”
Still, he gave big ups to the Tigers for holding “very legit” Notre Dame to 22 points and Louisville to 17. Edwards also thinks the Clemson defense would potentially be able to bottle up Derrick Henry after escaping against Florida State’s Dalvin Cook on Saturday.
“I thought Clemson’s defense acquitted itself very well against a running back who I think is right there — if not as good as Henry and Fournette — just very slightly rated below, and maybe as good as both of those guys,” Edwards said. “Now, I would probably give Alabama a little more advantage (over Florida State) on the O-line.”
The big difference between the teams, though, is that ferocious Tide front seven.
“How would their O-line hold up against Alabama’s D-line?” Edwards asked. “I think that matchup is probably the prevailing thing in any handicap involving Alabama. I just don’t know that there’s an O-line in America that can handle Alabama’s D-line.”
Alabama vs. Ohio State
Edwards’ line: Alabama -9 or 9.5
Andrews’ line: Alabama -2.5
“I’m waiting for Ohio State to come alive like it did last November,” Edwards said. “We didn’t necessarily see it against Minnesota, you know, maybe with (quarterback J.T.) Barrett getting back in the mix this year… Look, all they do is keep winning. And all they need to do is be playing their best football in Ann Arbor.”
Ann Arbor is where Ohio State will play its toughest remaining game — against hated rival Michigan. Edwards said he “loves” Michigan in that contest. So if OSU can escape with a win, one could classify the Buckeyes as a “legit” football team.
But as of now, they have not shown enough to impress Edwards.
“I really don’t feel like they’ve played that great really at any point this season,” he said, adding that Ohio State would be a four-point underdog to Clemson.
We’ll find out where the Tide, Buckeyes and Tigers land in the College Football Playoff rankings show (7 pm ET, ESPN) Tuesday night.