Since the College Football Playoff initial rankings first aired on November third, Clemson and Alabama seemed to be on a collision course to meet for the National Championship. They’ve made it come to fruition through an inspired and unrelenting focus, moved by two different motivations.
The Clemson Tigers are good, fast, quick striking and feeling quite disrespected. The underdog card is the Ace that they have been dealt all post season and they have played it well.
Their Head Coach Dabo Swinney has led the rally cry, the Tigers have rallied around their leader and ignored the skeptics while continuing to pull out win after win resulting in an undefeated season. Heisman Candidate, quarterback Deshaun Watson has led the Tigers past every contestant that’s stood in their way. Wayne Gallman has been underrated, but not underappreciated by his teammates.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are good, experienced and methodical. Head Coach Nick Saban has been in this situation before; everything on the line leading up to game time. It was a different era then, but the mission was still the same. Win.
Alabama’s early season loss was made out way bigger than it was at the time, looking back it was nothing more than a minor blip on the radar. Bounces didn’t go their way and the uncertainty at quarterback was resolved, but one half too late. Saban knows what he has on defense as it’s one of the best defense’s he and Defensive Coordinator (now Georgia Head Coach) Kirby Smart have ever had. Bama has depth up front, ball sniffing linebackers and a physical secondary.
Which phase will make the difference forcing the other team to adjust early?
It is no secret that the Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have trouble defending the spread offense effectively. They would prefer to keep the opposing offense in a phone booth where they can attack going downhill, corralling the running back and shrinking the pocket for the quarterback. That’s not going to happen tonight. Clemson will spread the defense out, with hopes of opening up some of the gaps in the Alabama defensive line to give Gallman and Watson some holes to run through.
Alabama will have to force Watson to be one dimensional. The secondary will have to be extra physical with the Clemson receivers who can get physical themselves, but are deadly going over the top. They can fly past you before you know it. Clemson receiver Artavis Scott will be watched by more than two eyes and probably hounded by more than four hands.
Clemson’s defense has been an afterthought behind the notoriety of their quarterback, but they quietly dominated in stretches. More often than not, they get those timely stops when the game is hanging in the balance. In the second half of the semifinal game against Oklahoma, the Tigers were without one of their biggest playmakers in Shaq Lawson. Still, they held the Sooners to no points.
For Alabama it is very simple, get the ball to your playmakers. To Lane Kiffin, make sure you get Jake Coker in the right situations for him to be successful.
If Watson is able to be effective running and throwing the ball while limiting the turnovers; the Tigers can bring home their first championship since 1981. Now if the Tide can make him one dimensional, while creating opportunities for Heisman Trophy winner running back Derrick Henry run amuck, Nick Saban will bring a fourth National Title in seven years back to Tuscaloosa.