Tonight on ESPN, the national champion is crowned. For me, this is the best game we could have asked for when looking at all of the teams. The committee might have struggled in picking the opponents in the first round (sorry Washington and Ohio State), but Clemson (13-1) taking on Alabama (14-0) is the matchup that has the most intrigue and should provide the best game. Alabama could be the first team since the 19th century to go 15-0 and Clemson looks for revenge from last year’s title game.
A lot of talk leading into this game is how you beat Alabama. The only formula that has seemed to work in the past is having an athletic quarterback who is mobile and can freelance a little. Chad Kelly from Ole Miss last year was a perfect example of that. He could break down defenders with his feet and he didn’t mind attempting a circus play when he was in trouble. It’s weird to think that a freelancing quarterback is the way to beat Alabama, but when a defense is as fundamentally sound as Alabama, sometimes a little improvisation is exactly what you need.
Speaking of that Alabama defense, they are pretty good. A stat floating out there is that if Alabama did not score a single touchdown on offense the entire year, their football team would still be 6-8. Let that sink in for a second. Their defense not only stops teams, but it scores against them. Enough to be bowl eligible at that. Insane.
Another note leading into this game is that Alabama is moving on from OC Lane Kiffin and turning the offense over to Steve Sarkisian. I don’t think this is a huge deal, because both are geniuses when it comes to offense, but it’s fun to talk about. If you watch Nick Saban on the sidelines with his coordinators, you can see that they can never stray too far away from him or what he wants to do. He likes to be able to…let’s call it coach them up, from time to time. For Alabama to win this game, I think it is all about Bo Scarbrough. He opens up everything for that offense. He makes Jalen Hurts’ job easier, running and passing, and can open up play-action for the Tide and that could help spring tight-end OJ Howard. Speaking of OJ Howard, does he have another game against Clemson like last year? If he does, with Bo is rolling, that means trouble for Clemson.
For Clemson to win this game, you need the best version of Deshaun Watson we have ever seen. That is a tall task considering the defense they are facing, but then again, you’re asking it of a top five player in college football. He also has the best receiver in college football to help him out in Mike Williams. Williams is, to me, a top 15 pick in the upcoming draft. He is 6’3” and his stats from this season read: 90 catches, 1,267 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Not too bad. Clemson cannot turn the ball over. Turning the ball over against Alabama means points. And sometimes those points come without the Offense touching the field. Deshaun and Co. need to make sure that ball stays in their hands and does not find its way into the hands of the Crimson Tide.
Alabama’s defense is physical; Clemson’s offense is high flying. I think that is what it comes down to in the end. Which style of play will win out?
I say Alabama wins this. It’s close, but Alabama gets a touchdown late to seal the game. 34-20.
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Kickoff: 7PM in Tampa Bay, Florida.