Tha Sports Junkies 101

CFB National Championship Preview: Clemson vs Alabama



Clemson and Alabama face off in rematch of 2016 National Championship

A year ago, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers  dueled for the National Championship with Nick Saban’s Alabama squad toppling Dabo Swinney’s Tigers 45-40. On Monday, the two teams will have a rematch of last year’s championship game. With a win, Saban can cement his legacy as the modern-day Paul “Bear” BryantBear Bryant won six championships in his 25 years at Tuscaloosa. With a win his fifth championship in eight seasons.

On Thursday, I asked Kirk Herbstreit if there were any particular matchups that could decide the outcome of the game and if Clemson could lean on their past experience to possibly upset the Crimson Tide. Herbstreit immediately mentioned Deshaun Watson vs Bama’s defense and the fact that Clemson’s already has shown they can compete with Alabama.

“I think as far as experience, last year’s experience is the best experience that gives them confidence. They were right there stride per stride, had a quarterback play out of his mind in that game. I think a lot of us left that stadium thinking Deshaun Watson is a bad man, including Nick Saban. I mean, in their minds they blew the on-side kick, they let a kickoff return get out from Kenyan Drake. But I think in their minds they probably gained more confidence in standing in the middle of the rain going toe-to-toe with Alabama for four quarters than anything else that they can look at on film.”

Watson delivered a valiant effort against Alabama, completing 30 of 47 passes, along with 405 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Watson also gained 73 rushing yards on 20 carries. Hunter Renfrow had a big game that day as well, finishing with seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. The downfall that day for Clemson however was poor special teams play and the inability to stop the run. 2016 Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry ended his college career with 36 carries, for 158 yards, and three touchdowns.

Players to Watch

  • 6’2 230 lb Redshirt Sophmore Bo Scarbrough is the next great Alabama running back for Nick Saban. Scarbrough rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns against Washington last week. After battling injuries, Scarbrough has emerged as Bama’s “bell cow”. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would be wise to feed him at least 20 times on Monday.


  • Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts is one of the “newcomers” to the Bama-Clemson saga. Hurts is a dual-threat quarterback, and has turned in an impressive season as a “true freshman”. Hurts is completing almost 65 percent of his passes along with 2649 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also has accounted for 891 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.


  • Inside linebacker Reuben Foster is Alabama’s leading tackler, and he’s one of the best defenders in all of college football. Through 14 games, Foster has 103 tackles and four sacks. He’s also this year’s recipient of the Dick Butkus Award given to the nation’s best linebacker.


  • Defensive end Jonathan Allen is an absolute terror for opposing offenses. Allen has won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarick Award given to the best defensive player in the country. Allen also won the Ted Hendricks Award given to the best defensive end and he also finished seventh in the Heisman voting. He’s a game changer on defense, and the Clemson offense should be aware of him on every down.


  • Tight End O.J. Howard’s five catch for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the championship game in 2016 earned him offensive MVP. At 6’6 245 lbs he’s drawn comparisons to Jimmy Graham and for good reason. Howard has big play ability and provides an instant threat in the redzone for Alabama.


  • Deshaun Watson has arguably been the most consistent player in college football over the past calendar year. In his junior year, Watson has thrown for over 4,000 yards and 38 touchdowns. He hasn’t been as effective on the ground as he was a season ago when he rushed for over 1,000 yards but like Hurts, Watson is a dual-threat quarterback as well.


  • The Tigers’ defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage against the Ohio State Buckeyes in their 31-0 victory last week, and will look to do the same against an Alabama offensive line that isn’t as stout as in years past. Defensive tackles Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and freshmen Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell will need to do the same if Clemson is to pull of the upset.


  • Wide receiver Mike Williams missed last year’s game against Bama with a neck injury. He had a stellar season this year, as he finished 90 catches, 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns. At 6’3 205 lbs, Williams has the size advantage over the smaller defensive backs of the Crimson Tide.


Game Prediction

This game is the classic “David vs Goliath” matchup. Clemson is a confident team after their thrashing of Ohio State and the Tigers gave the Crimson Tide all they could handle a year ago. Alabama is susceptible in the secondary and Mike Williams will have a huge impact on this game after missing the National Championship in 2016. Clemson 38 Alabama 34.