Same Teams, New Game

Alabama and Clemson face off in National Championship rematch

by Jeff Lyons | @JeffreyCLyons |

After 2 lackluster semi-final games, we should have another entertaining National Championship. While the team names and head coaches are the same, outside of a handful of players, the teams are very different.

For Clemson, everything begins and ends with Deshaun Watson. Last year, Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, a performance that caused Saban to compare Watson to Cam Newton. Waston is back with an extra season under his belt and Mike Williams, a 1st round wide receiver who missed last year’s game. Add in that the Crimson Tide will be without Eddie Jackson, last year’s national championship game defensive MVP, and Clemson should be able to score, early and often.

Based on the Ohio State game, it would be easy to argue that Clemson’s defense is better than last year. The secondary should match-up well versus the Alabama receiving corps, but the real question will come from the Clemson defensive line. After dominating the Buckeyes with 11 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and only 88 yards rushing, the line seems to be peaking at the right time. If we hear the names: Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, and Clelin Ferrell a lot during the broadcast, it could be a long day for the Crimson Tide.

As with Alabama, we know that the Tide takes their cues from the top and no one is more at the top than Nick Saban. However, Saban is not able to play the game for his team and we need to remember that he elected to turn offensive coordinator duties over to Steve Sarkisian a week before the National Championship game. Plus, it would be remiss for us to not mention that Jalen Hurts is still a freshman and every game this season has been bigger than the next. While the Tide will rely heavily on Bo Scarbourgh, this is probably the first game where the Tide will need Hurts to do more than just manage the game.

Unfortunately, 14 passes for 57 yards will not lead to a win against the Tigers, as it did against Washington. Obviously, Alabama’s entire game plan comes down to their strength, the defense. It’s not hard to argue that Alabama has the best front seven in the country, and probably one of the top secondaries, but offenses have been able to score on them. We should not forget that a high tempo, mobile quarterback offense from Ole Miss hung 43 points on the Tide. Clemson ran for 205 yards against the Buckeyes and that will not happen versus Alabama. The Tide’s defense will be able to make Clemson one dimensional, allowing the defensive line to tee-off on Watson and the secondary to jump more than a few routes.

With Watson’s propensity to turn the ball over in the air, it could be a long day for the Tigers and Alabama’s defenders getting another shot at scoring points.

Game Watching Tip: Forget the regular broadcast, watch the ESPN “Coaches Film Room” on ESPN2. Coaches that will be in attendance include: PJ Fleck of Western Michigan Minnesota , Dino Babers of Syracuse, former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, Mike MacIntyre of Colorado and Matt Rhule of Baylor. ESPN college football analyst and former University of Michigan quarterback Brian Griese will be guiding the coaches.

Prediction: Saban will not have an advantage this year in special teams and Clemson knows what to expect from Alabama’s defense.  Clemson will get up early and force Alabama to throw.  The Tide will seem out of sync and confused with their new play caller, Sarkisian, and by the time everything gets fixed, it will be too late.

Clemson 31 Alabama 17

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