January 1st, 2018 Mercedes-Benz Superdome. New Orleans, Louisiana. 8:45 PM Eastern.
#4 Alabama, 11-1 Vs. #1 Clemson, 12-1.
I must preface this article by letting everyone know my feelings. If you don’t play for a conference championship, you shouldn’t be able to play for a national championship. Let me repeat that in bold face words. If you don’t play for a conference championship, you shouldn’t be allowed to play for a national championship. The Alabama Crimson Tide, did not play in the SEC championship, and yet they are here in the final four. This is the 3rd time in three years that these two teams will play in the college football playoffs. The previous two meetings were for the the National Championship. Two years ago, Alabama won the title, defeating Clemson 45-40. Last season, The Tigers scored the game winning touchdown with time running out to win 35-31.
Alabama’s Nick Saban has won 10 or more games for 10 straight years. That is the longest streak of 10 or more wins by any coach in Division I.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has won 10 or more games for 7 straight years. That is the 2nd longest streak of 10 or mores wins by any coach in Division I.
Saban and Swinney are the best of the best. They usually go into every game giving their team a 3-point advantage or more, because of their coaching dominance. That won’t happen in this game. The coaching is even.
Clemson on offense:
How do you replace a legend? Just ask Kelly Bryant who replaced quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Bryant completed 67% of his passes, threw for over 2,600 yards and rushed for 646 yards. The first year starter had 24 total touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. The Tigers had three players rush for over 600 yards and three players accumulate over 500 yards. There is no real dominant offensive player but they have depth and they have several players who can score from anywhere on the field. Look for WR, Hunter Renfro to come up big on 3rd downs. I expect him to have at least 8 catches against the Crimson Tide.
Clemson on defense:
Clemson has one of the most dominant defensive lines in college football. Clemson’s defensive line pipeline speaks for itself. Only LSU (14) has had more linemen taken in the last 10 NFL drafts than Clemson (13), and there were eight former Clemson defensive linemen on NFL opening-day rosters this year. Clemson doesn’t rebuild they reload. Other than Georgia, they may have the fastest defense from sideline to sideline.
Alabama on offense:
Quarterback Jalen Hurts had a very good sophomore season. He threw for over 1900 yards and ran for 768 yards. He had 23 total touchdowns and only 1 interception. Running back Damien Harris can take over a quarter, a half or a game at any moment. He had 110 carries for 906 yards. That is an average of 8.2 yards per carry. Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley has been solid all year. He had 55 catches averaging just over 16 yards per catch.
Alabama on defense:
The Crimson Tide ranks No. 3 in the nation, allowing opponents just 94.08 rushing yards per game. Clemson averages 204.08 rushing yards per game. Something has to give here. Alabama has had a bunch of injuries that may come back to haunt the in this game. It’s one thing to play Vanderbilt with your 2nd stringers but to do that against an elite team is not a winning formula.
The coaching is even here but look for Swinney to have one or two special plays to make a difference. You don’t hear or read this often, but, Alabama is coming into this game with less talent than Clemson. For that reason, I like Clemson to win round 3 of this great rivalry.
Clemson 34 Alabama 23.
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