Who has the edge? Clemson vs. Alabama
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The top two teams all season will play for college football’s big prize when No. 1 Alabama plays No. 2 Clemson tonight in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
The game is scheduled to kickoff at 8 p.m., EST.
Tonight’s game will mark the first time in the history of college football that team two teams will meet in a bowl game for a fourth consecutive season. This will be the third time they played in the national championship game during the four-year stretch.
“Yeah, standard operating procedure,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re very familiar with Alabama, same bat channel, different bat day, I guess, bat time, or whatever. I mean, they’re phenomenal on defense, no different.
“You just turn the page, whatever year. They’re great on defense. You can pick little things here or there. They’re great on defense. They’re built in the trenches. The biggest difference for them this year is just the explosiveness on offense. This is by far the best version of them we’ve seen offensively.
Who has the edge?
Clemson’s pass protection vs. Alabama’s pass rush: Alabama has recorded 45 sacks this year. Clemson has allowed just 17. Something has to give, right? There are really just a few keys to this game and this is one of them. If there is one job the Tigers have to do tonight, it is keeping quarterback Trevor Lawrence upright. Lawrence is extremely accurate when he throws from the pocket and he is comfortable. But like most quarterbacks, pressure can throw all of that. Clemson has to keep an eye on nose guard Quinnen Williams (6-4, 295). He leads the Tide with 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Advantage: Alabama
Clemson’s pass rush vs. Alabama’s pass pro? Like Alabama, Clemson likes to get after the quarterback. Just ask Notre Dame. Clemson has sacked the quarterback 52 times this season with 17 different players recording at least one sack. Bama on the other hand does a good job protecting the quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Tide has allowed just 13 sacks all season. Like Alabama wants to do with Clemson when the Tigers have the ball, they want to do the same thing against the Tide. Clemson leads the nation in sacks and quarterback pressures (102). The goal for the Tigers is to keep Tagovailoa contained in the pocket and allowing their great defensive ends, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, to come in and finish things off. Advantage: Clemson
Clemson’s running game vs. Alabama’s running game: Granted these two areas don’t match up on the field of play, but with the playing surface at Levi’s Stadium potentially in bad shape after all the rain the Bay Area got on Saturday and Sunday, whoever can run the ball the best will like win the game. This game could turn it to a real mud pit. If it does, Clemson does have the knowledge of how it can play in a game such as this. The Tigers played in a downpour in the ACC Championship Game last month. The Tigers ran for 301 yards in the 32-point victory. Granted, Alabama’s defensive front is a little bigger and stronger than Pitt’s, but Bama is giving up 120.3 yards per game on the ground. By the way, the Tigers are averaging 256.3 yards per game. On the flip side, the Tigers are allowing 92.6 yards per game, while Bama is averaging 202.0 yards per game. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: Both teams have skill players and quarterbacks who can do some damage. However, the field conditions could cause some issues, which will force both teams to have to run the ball more than they usually do. If that happens, considering Bama is not a heavy run team this year, the Tigers get a slight edge with ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne. Alabama has a three-headed monster at running back with Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris.
Prediction: Clemson 28, Alabama 24