By Chris Carlson
At the beginning of the College Football season Alabama and Clemson stood above the rest of the field of potential championship caliber teams. That was of course on paper, which doesn’t normally translate in the anything-can-and –will-happen world of the regular season. Now here we stand with the best two programs contending for a national title, undefeated teams that know each other all too well over the last 4 years, once again squaring-off for all the marbles.
With all the attention focused on a playoff expansion being a necessity, the media and fans need to step back, take a deep breath and smell the coffee. In this case the coffee brewed is a special matchup, one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Would adding a 5th or 6th team to the playoffs help clear up some issues or make it more fair in some year’s, sure. This want-be-scribe is of the thought that adding a 7th or 8th team would cheapen the regular season. Not to mention lessening the number of high-profile non-conference games we love so much in September. Instead of bitching and moaning let’s appreciate the fact we have the best two teams bar none in the title game. Let us not forget, for those who love the sport of College Football with all its quirks and problems, for decades upon decades we rarely got best versus best.
Will Alabama repeat as champions making it 6 crowns in 12 years for Nick Saban? Or will Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers even the Playoff series at 2-2? One thing is for sure this game will not disappoint for numerous reasons. One of those reasons it will live up to the hype is the quarterback play from Bama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Tua was the Heisman Trophy runner up and the savior for Alabama last year, rallying the tide back from a halftime deficit to win the championship. Lawrence came out of high school as a stud recruit but had to win the job against a well established signal-caller.
Both teams had close calls, Clemson sneaking by Texas A&M, and Syracuse a few weeks later without Lawrence who had been knocked out of the game. Georgia had a two-touchdown lead that evaporated in the SEC title game with yet another comeback on the Bulldogs from Alabama.
Coming into Monday’s championship contest the defenses we’re evenly matched. With the loss of highly talent and ultra experienced defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence the edge goes to Alabama. As far as skilled position weapons Clemson running back Travis Etienne rushed 190 times for 1572 yards to go along with 22 touchdowns. Crimson tide wide receiver Jerry Juedy seemed to make every big play for Bama finishing with 1176 receiving yards and 13 TD’s.
Taking a look at momentum as it relates to the last chuck of games Clemson gets the nod having won the last 9 outing by an average of 27 points. Whereas, Alabama hasn’t been as dominant as they we’re in back to back shout-outs versus LSU and Mississippi State. Las Vegas has Bama a 6-point favorite but make no mistake about it, this is a razor-close tilt with everything on the line. Look for this one to come down to fourth quarter clutch plays, just reading that sentence makes one think of Alabama and the clutch plays they tend to make year after year.
The one weakness or better stated, minor flaw that has burned Bama in the past is a mobile quarterback. They fixed the minor issue of facing a running QB by shrinking their linebackers a bit. But an athletic signal caller that can both run and pass at a high level pretty much describes Trevor Lawrence. The only thing keeping me from betting on this game is Lawrence’s lack of inexperience in spotlight performance beyond last week’s Notre Dame semifinal victory.
The combination of Clemson being somewhat counted out to the business as usual Crimson Tide along with an Tua’s ongoing knee and potential lingering ankle injury, lends itself to pick against the experts. It may take some late-game heroics but Dabo Swinney and company has what takes to topple Alabama. Food for thought Alabama’s senior class is 54-3 while Clemson’s is 53-4 with the 2017 National Semifinals victory for Bama separating them over that time frame.
The Pick: Clemson 37 Alabama 33
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio