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The Insider: Alabama favored in CFP title game

The Alabama Crimson Tide are seven-point favorites over the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.

No. 2 Alabama (13-1) convincingly punched its ticket to the CFP title game by dismantling No. 3 Michigan State 38-0 on New Year’s Eve in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.

Top-ranked Clemson (14-0) also was impressive, beating No. 4 Oklahoma 37-17 in the first semifinal Thursday in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened with Alabama as a touchdown favorite over Clemson. The undefeated Tigers were four-point underdogs to the Sooners.

Las Vegas books opened betting on the national championship game late Thursday night as Alabama continued to dominate Michigan State in the second half. Sportsbook operator CG Technology opened the Crimson Tide as 4.5-point favorites, but the line quickly climbed to Alabama minus-6.

The Crimson Tide have been favored in 80 of their past 81 games, including all three national championship game appearances under head coach Nick Saban. Alabama won all three of those title games.

Clemson is 3-12 overall against Alabama and has lost the past 12 meetings. It is the Tigers’ worst record against any opponent they have played at least 10 times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

It didn’t take long for Saban to get asked about Clemson.

“We’d like to enjoy this game for 24 hours, but Clemson’s got a great team,” Saban said Thursday night. “They’re undefeated. They’ve got a great program, so I’m sure our guys are going to be motivated to play the best they can.

The Tigers are within one win of their first national title since 1981.

“I knew that we would be here,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, an Alabama alumnus who played on the Tide’s 1992 national championship team. “It was just a matter of when.”

McCaffrey sets Rose Bowl record in rout

Kevin Hogan threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth and Christian McCaffrey contributed two touchdowns to lead sixth-ranked Stanford to a 45-16 rout of No. 5 Iowa in the 102nd Rose Bowl on Friday in front of 94,268.

McCaffrey, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, set a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards. The sophomore from Castle Rock, Colo., ran 18 times for 172 yards, caught four passes for 105, returned one punt for 63 yards and a kickoff for 28 yards. McCaffrey became the first player in Rose Bowl history to compile at least 100 yards rushing and receiving.

Hogan completed 12 of 21 passes for 223 yards and one interception. Defensively, the Cardinal held the Hawkeyes to 48 rushing yards while sacking Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard seven times and returning an interception for a touchdown.

Elliott scores four TDs in OSU’s romp

Ezekiel Elliott punctuated his final college game with a record-tying four touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl, adding another chapter to Ohio State’s rich running back tradition.

Elliott rushed for 149 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in the No. 7 Buckeyes’ 44-28 victory over No. 8 Notre Dame on Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Elliott, a junior, scored on 2-, 1- and 1-yard runs in the first half, and his 47-yard dash on a counter play gave the Buckeyes (12-1) a 35-21 lead with 6:37 left in the third quarter. He has declared for the NFL Draft.

Michigan blasts Florida in Citrus Bowl

Two resurgent football teams met at the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on Friday, but only one showed up.

No. 14 Michigan completed its one-season turnaround under new coach Jim Harbaugh, routing the No. 19 Florida Gators 41-7 behind 278 yards passing and three touchdowns from quarterback Jake Rudock.

Michigan finished the season 10-3, easing the stinging memory of the 42-13 loss to Ohio State in the 2015 regular-season finale.

Running back De’Veon Smith rushed for 111 yards on 25 carries for a Michigan offense that ran up and down the field at will against Florida’s No. 6-ranked defense.

Northwestern no match for Vols

Tennessee wasn’t sure it would have the services of Jalen Hurd after the sophomore running back injured himself at practice earlier in the week.

Once Hurd was declared fit, however, Tennessee coach Butch Jones did not hesitate to ride him to victory.

Hurd carried the Volunteers to a dominant second half and a 45-6 victory over Northwestern on Friday afternoon in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

The No. 23-ranked Volunteers (9-4) made the case they could be one of the teams to keep an eye on to return to Tampa next year, when the city hosts the 2017 College Football Playoff title game.