Countdown to Kickoff: National Championship Game
SAN JOSE, Calif — Clemson is where it is supposed to be.
When the 2018 football season started way back in August camp, the second-ranked Tigers had Santa Clara, Calif., set in their crosshairs. Through a quarterback competition that ended with a change four weeks into the season, to Kelly Bryant’s sudden and surprising transfer, to a gut check versus Syracuse, to the domination of the Atlantic Coast Conference for a fourth straight year, Clemson had its mind set on one goal, getting back and winning another national championship.
The Tigers will play for their second national title in three years on Monday when they face No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m., EST
“We are really excited about the opportunity to compete against the best team in the country on the highest stage,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “This is what we all set out to do, 130 teams, and you have two teams that have an opportunity to compete on this stage, and we’re thankful and blessed to have this moment.”
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Records: Clemson 14-0; Alabama 14-0
When: Monday, 8 p.m., EST
Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network)
Latest Line: Alabama (minus-5.5)
Series: Alabama lead series 14-4
Last meeting: Alabama won 24-6 in the 2018 Sugar Bowl Classic
Three story lines
Clemson is looking to win its second national title in three years. It could signify the changing of the guard among the college football elite as Clemson will be the only team other than Alabama to win multiple national championships in the last 10 years.
There will be history on the line when the 14-0 Tigers and 14-0 Crimson Tide square off, as each team will attempt to become the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0. No major team has recorded a 15-0 record since the 19th century, when Penn compiled a 15-0 mark in 1897.
In addition to featuring the two winningest programs of the College Football Playoff era, Monday’s contest will also highlight the two winningest senior classes in college football history. The current seniors at Alabama and Clemson have won 55 and 54 games since 2015, respectively, the top two totals in Division I history. A Clemson win on Monday would tie the two senior classes with 55 wins and two national championships each.
Alabama players to watch
Tua Tagovailoa , QB: The Maxwell and Walter Camp Award winner as college football’s best player, finished his 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal against Oklahoma with four touchdown passes to move him into sole possession of second place on the Alabama career touchdown passes list at 52. The sophomore was previously tied for second with teammate Jalen Hurts at 48 career scoring tosses. AJ McCarron (2010- 13) is the Alabama career leader with 77 touchdown passes.
Jerry Jeudy, WR: Jeudy has established himself as one of the nation’s top receiving threats this season. The sophomore is 18th nationally with an average of 18.7 yards per reception and is tied for fifth nationally with 13 touchdown catches this season.
Quinnen Williams, DT: Quinnen Williams has 17 TFLs on the season, which is one shy of cracking the Alabama single-season top-10. Williams leads all Tide defensive linemen with 66 tackles and leads the team in tackles for loss with 17.0. He has added 7.0 sacks and a pass breakup and is tied for the team lead with 12 quarterback hurries.
Alabama scouting report
Over the last 10 seasons (2009-18), Alabama has spent 82 weeks as the nation’s top-ranked team. The rest of the Football Bowl Subdivision combined has spent 79 weeks at No. 1 over that same span.
Alabama’s scoring differential stands at 31.5 points per game (47.7-16.2) in 2018. A big reason for the margin is the Crimson Tide’s performance following a turnover. UA has scored 111 points off 21 opponent giveaways this season, scoring on 18 of the turnovers. The Tide defense has directly accounted for 35 points on four interception returns and a fumble return, while the offense has posted 77 points on its 15 post-turnover possessions.
Alabama has been ranked first in the AP poll in 45 of the last 48 polls. Prior to Alabama’s current run at No. 1, the most appearances at No. 1 in a 50-week span was USC with 33 from 2003-05. The Crimson Tide has broken that mark by 12 with just the postseason poll left this season.
Since the start of the 2008 season, the Crimson Tide has posted a 30-9 (.769) overall record against top-10 teams, including a 15-3 (.833) mark versus the top 10 since the inception of the College Football Playoff. In Saban’s five national championship seasons at Alabama, his teams have gone 17-2 against top-10 opponents
Through 14 games in 2018, Alabama leads the Southeastern Conference in sacks per game (3.21) with 45 for a loss of 270 yards. The Tide ranks sixth nationally in sacks per game and total sacks. Senior Isaiah Buggs leads the Tide in both sacks (9.5) and sacks per game (0.68). Redshirt senior Christian Miller is second with 8.5 and redshirt sophomore Quinnen Williams ranks third on the team with 7.0 sacks
The Alabama defense has proven to be just as dominant as the Crimson Tide offense in the first two quarters of play this season. The Tide defenders have limited the opposition to just 113 points (12 touchdowns, five field goals) and 2,152 yards of offense (153.7 per game) in the first half in 2018.
With 3,671 passing yards this season, Tua Tagovailoa moved into the top spot on the UA singleseason passing yardage list. The sophomore passed Blake Sims, who had been No. 1 with 3,487 yards in 2014. Tagovailoa is just the fourth quarterback in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season.