(Alabama and Clemson battle for the championship. Here’s a breakdown. PictureCourtesy Sporting News)
This time next week we will know who is the National Champion of College Football. The lowly, underrated Clemson Tigers come into the matchup at 14-0, trying to become the first 15-0 team in college football history. It will also be the school’s second national championship.
Then there is the pride of the SEC, the Alabama Crimson Tide, trying to make up for their blunder in the first National Championship Playoff a year against Ohio State. And who do I think will win come January 11th?
And I am rolling with the…Clemson Tigers! I am #ALLIN
Ever since the Heisman Trophy ceremony, I have sensed this matchup coming between these two teams. The #1 team versus the #2 team. This matchup reminds me of a matchup that happened 10 years ago, in the greatest college football game ever, University of Southern California vs University of Texas. Clemson played the role of Texas and Bama played the role of USC.
Now to the actual matchup on January 11th. Clemson’s offense is exactly what Bama has been recruiting against ever since they got beat by Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in 2012. Since then, they still haven’t defended good dual threat QBs well. Deshaun Watson is definitely the best dual threat QB Bama has played since Manziel, maybe the best. Early this year, Bama played two teams with really good dual threat QBs, Chad Kelly of Ole Miss (he beat Bama) and Joshua Dobbs of Tennessee (lost to Bama by 5 points). Even in the 2014 season Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs came within five points of knocking of Alabama. MSU was plagued by Prescott’s three interceptions and an early safety.
The only thing Clemson’s defense needs is rest. Clemson’s defense, that does not sub out much on the front seven, was one of the nation’s best in the early part of the year. Then they played ten games straight with no bye. Of course a defense will bend but this defense never broke. A defense that gets after the passer at a high volume (with a banged up Shaq Lawson) and also a defense with a freakishly long and talented secondary that plays the pass very well is always dangerous.
Jacob Coker and the Alabama receivers against Clemson’s secondary…I take Clemson’s secondary 11 times out of 10 and if Coker can play better than Baker Mayfield, I’ll eat crow. The key matchup for the Clemson Tigers is Jordan Leggett, tight end, or slot receivers, like, Hunter Renfrow on the Bama linebackers. These two positions can pose threats to the Bama linebackers. If they want to check these two weapons they might need to use safeties, but by using safeties it can open up the run game of Clemson or the deep ball.
According to Pick Six Previews, Clemson is one of only seven teams to have two 1000 yard rushers this season. Those two Tigers are Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson.
If Clemson wins it will be the second national championship for the school, their first since the 1981 season.
It will also be good for the conference. This will be the ACC’s second national champion in three years, both coming against the SEC (Jameis Winston’s Florida State Seminoles over the Auburn Tigers). According to Larry Williams, if Dabo Swinney beats Alabama, this will be his 8th win over a head coach with a national championship. The seven head coaches are Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Jimbo Fisher, Bobby Bowden, Gene Chizik, and Steve Spurrier. Will Saban be his 8th?
The three things Bama can do that can give Clemson fits is to run the ball, feature their tight end, O.J. Howard, and the punt return game. These two matchups for Bama can tilt the scale into their favor.
Derrick Henry, of course, is a monster of a running back and when Henry is rolling Bama will be hard to stop. But I think the game lies on the shoulders of Coker and the hands of Bama’s tight end Howard. I expect Clemson to dial up a lot of blitzs and a lot of man to man and 2 deep safeties. So a lot of Howard on Ben Boulware and the Clemson linebackers…matchup goes to O.J. Howard. If Clemson wants to use safeties against Howard it lives them vulnerable to the deep passing threat we saw against Michigan State or to the run game when they choose to do that.
With Cyrus Jones back there returning punts, he can change the game. He is the biggest X-Factor Alabama has. It should be a great matchup since Clemson ranks 36th in punt returns with only 40% of the opposition’s punt returns going five yards or more, according to ESPN Staff Writer Jared Shanker.
Another big edge for Bama is that classes for spring semester do not start until two days after the national championship game, while Clemson’s class start five days before the game. This means the Tide will have unlimited time to practice until the game, while Clemson will have limitations on their practice time.
If Alabama wins, Nick Saban will get his 100th win at Alabama and his fourth title national championship as a head coach, third national championship at Alabama.
This will be a game that will be one for the ages. These are the two best teams in the nation and it will be a battle in the Glendale, Arizona on the January 11th. One prediction I know that will hold up is one team will be celebrating and the other team will be asking, “What more could have I done?”