ALABAMA and Clemson started the year and the two best teams in college football and they will end the season in the same spot. For the fourth straight year, the dynamic duo will go to war in the College Football Playoff (CFP), the third time in as many years they are playing for all the marbles. Both sides are more than capable of taking out the crown, with Nick Saban chasing a record seventh National Championship, while his counterpart Dabo Swinney out for his second title in three years.
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Recipe For Success: Alabama
THE key to yet another National Championship victory for Nick Saban lies in the hands of his offense. Almost 12 months ago to the day we saw true freshman Tua Tagovailoa enter the game in the second half stealing the show and in turn, claiming the starting job from Jalen Hurts. Bama has shown they can dominate regardless of who is under center, but Tua has proved he deserves to be atop the depth chart, putting forth one of the best seasons we have seen from a Crimson Tide quarterback.
ALABAMA’S offensive dominance doesn’t stop there with a devastating plethora of options at Tagovailoa’s disposal. His young receiving core has made life easier, but the real dominance lies in their rushing attack. The three-headed running back monster featuring Damian Harris, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs have combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards this season at over six yards an attempt. It’s a near-impossible task to stop all three, but if Clemson can’t at least slow them down, they’ll be in trouble.
DON’T think for a minute that all their shiny toys on offense are compensating for the defense though. While this group doesn’t boast the same reputation as Alabama teams of the past, they were once again a formidable unit led by top NFL Draft prospect Quinnen Williams. With the defensive lineman’s help, the Crimson Tide held their foes to a league-best seven rushing touchdowns, with their opponents averaging under 15 points a game on the year.
Recipe For Success: Clemson
WHILE Bama’s defense sounds impressive, Clemson’s unit was on another level entirely. They ranked first in the nation for opponent points per game (12.9), sacks (52) and yards allowed per game (274.6). They will have to confront Alabama without arguably their best defensive player in Dexter Lawrence who tested positive to a banned substance and was subsequently suspended for the College Football Playoff along with two of his teammates.
THE Tigers still boast some monster’s on their defensive line with the likes of Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant wreaking havoc on ACC offenses this year. Speaking of offenses, Clemson’s isn’t that far behind Alabama’s with their own true freshman star under center making headlines this year. A dazzling season from Trevor Lawrence has Clemson fans believing they can knock off Goliath after their QB chalked up nearly 3,000 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and just four picks through his first 14 collegiate starts.
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THE final piece to the potential championship puzzle is their talented running back Travis Etienne who performed better on the ground than any other Tigers halfback in school history. A Clemson record 1,572 rushing yards from Etienne was good for the fifth most in the nation this season with his 22 touchdowns tied for the best mark in the FBS. He will be going up against a defensive line the likes of which he hasn’t faced yet this season, but Clemson’s sophomore is more than capable of swinging the game in his team’s favour.
Numbers That Matter
2.4 – THE Tigers’ defense has given up an average of 2.40 yards per rushing attempt this season, the best mark in the nation. They also lead the FBS in rushing yards per attempt at 6.68 yards.
6 – TUA Tagovailoa has six 300-yard passing games this season, with no other player in school history recording more than three such games in a single season. If the reigning Championship Game Offensive MVP gets off the chain, there’s little hope for Clemson.
36 – THE combined number of field goals Alabama (19 attempts, 14 makes) and Clemson (17 attempts, 11 makes) have attempted this season. In what could be a historic shootout between two touchdown dependent offenses, one kick could be the difference maker.
50 – GOING off the AP Poll the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams will meet for the 50th time with the top rated squads holding a 26-21-2 advantage. The last matchup between the top-two ranked teams came between, you guessed it, Alabama and Clemson with the Tigers upsetting the Crimson Tide at the buzzer only a few short seasons ago.
137 – CLEMSON QB Trevor Lawrence has thrown 137 consecutive passes without throwing an interception. Lawrence can set the school single-season record (set by Cullen Harper in ’07) if he successfully throws for seven more completions against the Crimson Tide.
Prediction – Alabama 34, Clemson 24
IN the brief history of the College Football Playoff, no No. 1 seed has ever won the whole enchilada. Alabama can change that with a W after previously losing to Ohio State in their only other stint as the top overall seed in 2014. Bama has made the field of four in every season since the CFP’s inception and they are more than capable of delivering on the sport’s biggest stage. Clemson are equally poised to win another chip after previously knocking the Crimson Tide off their perch in 2016.
DABO Swinny and the Tigers are one of the rare teams who can go into a matchup with Nick Saban’s men with confidence and this game has all the signs of an epic you can tell your grandkids about. As much as I hate to go chalk, I just can’t pick against an Alabama team that is on the verge of becoming a dynasty. Their offense will start hot and make things tough for Clemson, who I expect to pull back late and add some respectability to the scoreboard. My pick is that Bama will romp their way to their sixth title in 11 seasons, leaving us all wondering why we even bother anymore.
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