2019 National Championship Preview

For the third time in four years, we got here: Alabama and Clemson in the National Championship Game.  And for the fourth time in five years, we got Alabama and Clemson in a Playoff matchup.

And no one is really complaining.  Or at least, no one should be.

The Playoff is supposed to take the four most deserving teams.  Just because Oklahoma’s defense got cooked by the Crimson Tide doesn’t mean they didn’t belong in.  Playing the “who would beat who” game is the wrong way to evaluate the playoff.  If that was the case, there should be no playoff whatsoever, and Alabama should just be voted the National Champion every year.

Georgia may have kept it closer with Alabama, but they probably wouldn’t have beaten them either, especially if they preformed like they did against Texas. Maybe the Bulldogs should have taken care of LSU earlier this year, a team that almost lost to UCF’s backup quarterback.

The committee didn’t get it wrong because Oklahoma lost to Alabama.  Oklahoma was supposed to lose to Alabama.  They’re the fourth seed going up against the one. The same case goes with Georgia.

So what are we really complaining about?  That the games just aren’t good?  That’s a fair argument, but it’s not the same as which teams deserve it.  The committee isn’t making that decision based (or at least, shouldn’t be) off how good of a game the semifinals will be.  That’s not their job.

The case is true that the semi-finals haven’t been good games.  We’ve had one good semi-final game in the history of the College Football Playoff, and that was last year’s insane Rose Bowl shootout between Oklahoma and Georgia.  I don’t know what the exact remedy is to fix it, but expansion feels like the best route no matter.  If you expand, even to a six-team playoff, you make everybody happy.

It feels like every year when we have the playoff debate, there’s always two extra teams we debate over (I feel bad.  I didn’t originally think of this, someone else made this observation and I’m blanking as to whether it was a friend, something I saw on Twitter or TV, or read.  Sorry to whoever I stole this from!).  Not three, not four, not five.  Just two.  This year, there were people who thought Georgia and/or UCF belonged in.  Last year it was UCF/Ohio State.  The year before that it was Ohio State/Penn State.

So six is the perfect number, not the eight I have previously campaigned for.  That way teams only have to schedule one less game per year, the “Team B deserved in over Team A” crowd shuts up, and we’re at least doing something to attempt to make the semi-finals better.

Alright, enough ranting.  Yahoo! Sports had a tweet on the night of the semifinals and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

That little rant above was spurred off this tweet.  Let’s preview the big game.

National Championship: No.2 Clemson vs. No.1 Alabama

I touched on this above, but no one should be complaining about this game (Oh God here I go again).  It’s the two best teams in the country.  There’s been one bad game between these two in the previous three meetings.  Neither are the type to not show up or get absolutely throttled in a game like this.

Though it didn’t really matter against Notre Dame, Clemson has one big disadvantage in this game, and that’s experience.  Trevor Lawrence is my age.  So is Justyn Ross.  The other skill position players, and espicially the defense, have been around.  But the Alabama defense is ruthless, and forcing Lawrence to crumble should be one of their top priorities.  He was a little shaky early against the Fighting Irish, but so was Ian Book, so Notre Dame had no way to capitalize.  If they can do what the Irish did to Lawrence, it’ll be easier stopping the Tigers fearsome run game, and the Tide should be able to capitalize a couple times given the explosiveness of their offense.

The Irish combatted Book’s slow start by throwing short passes and letting their skill guys go to work.  They made good (but probably too much) use of tunnel screens, which Clemson had a hard time containing in the 1st half.  The Tide are suited to grind teams down like that with the powerful trio of Josh Jacobs and the two Harrises.  Getting past Clemson’s NFL-caliber defensive line is a tall task, but this is where the loss of Dexter Lawrence could loom large.  He’s the big run-stuffer in the middle.  The Bama is trio is just better than Dexter Williams, who was stuffed in the semi-final match, running for just 54 yards.  The Tigers are also up against a better offensive line, which will create larger gaps for the running backs to get through.

Turnovers, specifically forced fumbles, also helped Clemson against Notre Dame.  It seems unlikely they’ll be able to do the same against Alabama.  The Tide take care of the football.  Nick Saban-coached teams don’t make those mistakes.

That being said, I’m still much more concerned about Clemson’s offense in this game rather than the defense.  The Tigers aren’t getting torched by Alabama.  They’re too good.  No one is getting overmatched in this game.

Which is why concern for the Tigers offense is high.  They dominated the Irish.  Lawrence was able to take the top off the secondary (A secondary which was actually the strength of the group).  Travis Etienne ran for 109 yards and a touchdown.  Justyn Ross blew corners off the line.

Like Clemson, Alabama’s defense isn’t getting torched in this game.  The big plays Notre Dame allowed won’t happen.  Etienne won’t easily rush for 100+ yards.  Lawrence is going to be up against the best defense in the country, which is a group of talent he’s never seen before.

This is a grudge-match.

And in these, it comes down to who you trust.  In shootouts you take the better quarterback.  In grudge-matches you take the offense less likely to make mistakes and more likely to make big plays with their skill guys.  Lawrence, a true freshman,  against this Bama defense makes me nervous.  I’ll count on the Tide to execute better, and on Tua Tagovailoa to make the throws after attacking the hole in Clemson’s defensive front.

Prediction: Alabama-28 Clemson-24