It all comes down to this. One will rule all of college football while the other will fall just short. For the fourth year in a row, we’ll see the Clemson/Alabama College Football Playoff matchup. Three of the last four decided it all. Would we want it any other way? Yes repeat matchup’s can be boring but these two teams are truly the two best in college football.
Alabama holds the all time series lead against Clemson with a 14-4 record. Clemson did start this rivalry off with it’s largest victory ever over Alabama when they beat them 35-0 in 1900. After that, Clemson won the next two but it’s been all Alabama since then as the Tide have won 14 of the last 15 matchups. Including three of the last four since 2008. But when Monday night comes, history will be a thing of the past.
Ranked number two all season long, this Clemson team has dominated. Kelly Bryant was ready to take Clemson back to the promise land to lead them to a third national championship after losing to Alabama in the semi-finals last year 24-6. However; Bryant didn’t last long as Clemson’s quarterback this year. He only threw for 461 yards and two touchdowns while playing in a dual role. That dual role was with one of the most dynamic QB’s in the last recruiting class. Trevor Lawrence in his true freshman campaign has put up veteran numbers. Lawrence has thrown for just shy of 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. In the Cotton Bowl Classic against Notre Dame, Lawrence threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the convincing 30-3 win.
In an interview with Scott Van Pelt of ESPN, Lawrence had a feeling that Clemson was going to play well.
“I had a feeling going into the game, and I think the rest of the team did too, that we were going to play one of our best games and play well.”Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence’s favorite target this season has been Sophomore Tee Higgins. Higgins has 56 catches for just shy of 900 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s had three games this season with over 100 yards receiving and two multiple touchdown games. And if that’s not enough, Clemson’s offense also has
Amari Rodgers. He has three less catches than Higgins for 545 yards and four touchdowns. But his game against Florida State showed us just how great of a player he is. Six catches, 156 yards, and two touchdowns in an absolute blowout that saw the Tigers win 59-10. And if that’s not enough, they also have Justyn Ross who has over 800 yards receiving and eight touchdowns with just 40 receptions. He’s a sneaky big player to watch out for in this game.
Another factor this season for the Tigers has been the outstanding play of running backs Travis Ettienne and Adam Choice. Etienne is the fifth leading rusher in the country with over 1,500 yards and has tallied 22 touchdowns as well. Choice has been a nice compliment to Etienne with over 500 yards and seven touchdowns of his own. However; neither has really been a threat in the passing game for the exception of the Texas A&M game where Etienne had three receptions for 23 yards. Maybe Clemson will toy with this idea early against Alabama’s top 10 defense.
Clemson’s offense is ranked third in the country in yards and points. Just like Alabama’s last opponent Oklahoma, Clemson will move the ball and put up points. But maybe the area that gets looked at the least, is the top five defense that Clemson has. The Tigers defense only allows 13.7 ppg, that’s an average of less than two touchdowns per game. They have the fourth ranked pass defense and the third ranked rush defense.
BUT, Clemson looks like they’ll be without defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence along with tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella tested positive for a substance called Ostarine, a diet supplement that cannot be sold legally in the United States. Even though Clemson cruised against Notre Dame, Alabama is no joke and you have to play a perfect game to beat them with all of your players.
“However, Clemson has been informed by the NCAA that the three student-athletes will be permitted to travel to Santa Clara, Calif., with the team later this week…As requested by these student-athletes, Clemson filed notices of appeal with the NCAA. We will continue to work with the three impacted student-athletes and their legal representatives over the coming weeks to prepare the appeals. Neither Clemson, Galloway, Giella nor Lawrence anticipate having further comment on this matter until after the appeals have concluded.”Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich said in a statement
Alabama Crimson Tide
The winningest college football program of all time. Their 17 national titles are the most amongst all colleges in the poll era. Boasting the second highest scoring offense and a top 10 defense, Alabama is a force to be reckoned with. And just like Clemson, Alabama had a major shift at QB. Alabama’s change however occurred in the national championship game last year against Georgia.
Tua Tagovailoa came into the national championship game last year at the half and stunned not only Georgia, but perhaps the world. Jalen Hurts was a rather forgetful 3-8 for 21 yards and the Alabama offense had nothing going. Trailing 13-0 at the half, Nick Saban pulled off one of the greatest moves in college football by putting Tagovailoa in. As they say, the rest is history and Alabama went on to win in double overtime 26-23.
Fast forward to 2018, Tua Tagovailoa is the starter at Alabama and hasn’t looked back. He’s thrown for 3,671 yards, 41 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. Only SEC opponents (Oles Miss, Mississippi St., and Georgia) have held him to under 200 yards passing. DISCLAIMER — Louisiana did as well but that was during a 56-14 blowout win in which Tagovailoa didn’t play the whole game thanks in large part to a 49-0 halftime lead.
One thing to watch out for is the health of Tagovailoa. The QB had ankle surgery in which they had to implant two medal rods to fix his ankle. He was a pedestrian 10-25 for 164 yards with two picks in the SEC championship game. Yet, he was remarkable against a weak Oklahoma defense in which he set the Alabama season passing record in the first quarter with over 130 yards in that quarter.
In terms of Tua’s favorite target, well that title belongs to Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy has 63 catches, 1,176 yards and 13 touchdowns all of which lead the
Crimson Tide. Oklahoma was able to limit Jeudy somewhat with only four grabs but had over 70 yards total and a touchdown. Jeudy won the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top receiver. He was tied for fifth in the country with his 13 touchdown receptions (Gary Jennings Jr – WVU and Andy Isabella – UMass).
Alabama’s run game will rely on Senior Damien Harris. Harris hasn’t put up numbers that would wow anyone as he’s rushed for just shy of 820 yards this year with nine TD’s. As a matter of fact Harris has only eclipsed 100 yards twice this season (Arkansas and LSU). But he’s effective in Alabama’s passing game. He has 20 catches for over 200 yards averaging 10 yards per catch. They may use him to open up that tough Clemson defense.
Alabama’s defense saw a top offense, Clemson’s did not. At first glance, you may want to give Alabama the edge. Vegas sure does. Alabama is favored on average by 6 points. With Clemson suspensions and and Tagovailoa’s ankle injury appearing to look better Alabama should be the favorite. However; I think that Clemson will pull this one out. As they say, defense wins championships. Surely Clemson’s hasn’t seen an offense like Alabama and this will be a high scoring game, but I like Clemson’s defense to stop them
MY PICK: Clemson 31 Alabama 28. Kickoff is set for 8pm on ESPN.
– Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)
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