National Championship Preview

With two crappy playoff games, this National Championship Game needs to come up clutch and be special.

Things are a little different from last year’s game.  Alabama has a quarterback who is competent.  They somehow have a better defense.  Clemson is sort of the same team.  They lost some guys, but have replaced them with awesome recruiting.

So can Alabama repeat?

National Championship: #3 Clemson vs. #1 Alabama

The change at offensive coordinator for the Tide is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, but honestly, it might be a positive.

I was befuddled by Lane Kiffin’s play-calling in the Semifinal against Washington, especially in the 1st half.  He was forcing Jalen Hurts to throw the ball, which should have been completely avoided for multiple reasons.  Kiffin also kept feeding Damien Harris, who is a great running back, but was he watching Bo Scarborough run early on?  Kiffin eventually figured it out by the 2nd half, but any run play that didn’t feature Scarborough was idiotic.  He was clearly the guy Washington couldn’t stop, and Kiffin thankfully figured it out by the end of the game.

I think that itself had more to do with Kiffin not assuming play-calling duties for this game than his next venture at FAU.  I’m sure they’re both a lot to handle, but I can’t imagine Saban wasn’t upset with Kiffin’s decisions.  They kept the Huskies in the game!

So how does Steve Sarkisian call a game that can get past this all-the-sudden-even-more-terrifying-than-before Clemson defense?

Against Ohio State, Clemson’s defense was lockdown and all over the place at the same time.  How is that?

By all over the place, they swarmed to the ball.  Ohio State was incompetent offensively.  Receivers were locked down.  Mike Weber couldn’t gain any yards.

This is not a good situation for Jalen Hurts and the Alabama offense.  He has to get rid of the ball quickly when throwing, and must hope his weapons can break some big runs after contact.  Bo Scarborough is certainly capable of that.

What really hurts the Tide is that their run game will struggle to get going.  Clemson’s defense is so well rounded, and so good everywhere.  There are no weaknesses.  The Tide have break some big runs after contact.

No weaknesses is something Alabama’s defense has been keen on all season.  But tonight, Clemson can exploit some.

There’s a chance this is the best defense college football has ever seen.  Countless names in the front seven will be drafted in the next two years.  They’re practically all stars.  There’s no other way to say it.

But if there is a weakness, its the secondary.  Though 2nd best in the country by Football Outsiders’ metrics, Clemson has enough weapons to expose the holes.  Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett, Artavis Scott, Hunter Renfrow.  The list goes on and on.  Alabama can deploy their linebackers to help in coverage, but these defensive backs are going to have a lot to handle.  If DeShaun Watson has the game he did last year, then this is Clemson’s title to lose.

What can go wrong for the Tigers?  Well, though it certainly didn’t happen in the Playoff as I expected it to, Clemson is prone to having bad games.  Games where Watson is off.  Where they don’t show up.  Where they’re unprepared.  The Tigers cannot have one of those games against Alabama, because if the style of this is old-school and gritty, Alabama has the advantage.

The Tigers need to go deep on the Tide, and get big plays any way they can.  Running the ball, or using Watson’s leg won’t get them far.  The Bama front seven is too good and too quick.  They have to convert downfield.  Thats their formula to win, and its the only one.

I think this is gonna be an epic game, even better than last year.

Above I made the case for Clemson to win.  I battled and battled with myself over who to actually pick.  I feel good now though.

Prediction: Clemson-28 Alabama-17