Alabama vs. Clemson College Football Playoff National Championship prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Crimson Tide and Tigers in Tampa, FL.
Alabama vs. Clemson CFP National Championship Preview
When: Monday, Jan. 9 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
TV Broadcast: ESPN
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide (14-0, 8-0 SEC) endured an early scare from Washington in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve, as they spotted the Huskies a 7-0 lead. But the dominant Tide defense clamped down on Chris Petersen’s offense, and Tide running back Bo Scarbrough took over. Alabama advanced to the College Football Playoff national title game with a convincing 24-7 win over Washington.
Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers (13-1, 7-1 ACC) will be the title-game opponent for Alabama for the second straight season after they crushed Ohio State, 31-0, in the Fiesta Bowl. After claiming consecutive ACC titles for the first time in 28 years, Deshaun Watson and Co. are trying to bring home a national championship to Clemson for the first time since 1981.
Alabama will be trying to win its second straight national title and its fifth in eight years—which is ridiculous no matter how many four and five-star recruits come through Tuscaloosa.
What To Know About Alabama
The 230-pound Scarbrough carved up a Washington defense that was game for a fight against the Tide. For some reason, though, Alabama stopped feeding its tailback the ball for stretches. And it hurt the offense. But when Lane Kiffin returned to calling Scarbrough’s number, that’s when the Tide pulled away from U-Dub. Pinned back inside its own 10-yard line, Scarbrough picked up a first down on a counter call on third-and-nine, and the drive culminated with a 68-yard touchdown run that featured Scarbrough break a couple of tackles on the perimeter and outrace the Huskies defense. It put the Tide up 24-7, and it gave Scarbrough 175 yards and a ridiculous 13 yards per carry following the score. It was really the first time all season that Scarbrough had been asked to be the lead guy on the ground, yet it was very much a Derrick Henry-esque performance. And the defense? Filthy as always. The Huskies became a three-and-out machine, as quarterback Jake Browning faced pressure all day, and he was put in several third-and-long situations. And we know that’s a recipe for disaster against the ‘Bama defense, led by Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, a group of premiere pass rushers and playmakers in the secondary. Simply put, this team looks unbeatable.
What to Know About Clemson
The Tigers have a ton of confidence heading into their rematch with the Tide. Can Watson and his teammates finish the job this time around after falling to ‘Bama in the national title game last season? The Tigers had the Tide on the ropes before Saban and Co. claimed yet another crown. Since the loss to Pitt this season, Swinney’s squad has more closely resembled last year’s team that nearly beat ‘Bama. Against Ohio State, it may have looked better than at any point this season. The Tigers played with a passion and focus that was not seen throughout much of the year. Freshman defensive end Clelin Ferrell lived in the Buckeyes’ backfield for much of the game, and the Tigers secondary clamped down on the Buckeyes receivers even when quarterback J.T. Barrett had time to throw. It’s tough to see this year’s Alabama team not hoisting the CFP trophy, but Watson alone gives the Tigers a chance to win any game no matter the type of adversity they may face. There is a reason why he was in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony for a second consecutive season. Plus, against the Buckeyes, Clemson’s play-calling was more creative than in any game it played in ’16. Will the offense throw ‘Bama some new wrinkles next week?
Offense: Clemson. It’s really hard to go against a team that has Scarbrough and a true freshman quarterback that is poised beyond his years. But Watson is a special talent with a deep receiver corps, and it’s a group that even excels at perimeter blocking—a very underrated aspect of the receiving game. Can Watson, though, play clean considering interceptions have been an issue this year?
Defense: Alabama. The Crimson Tide entered the matchup against U-Dub with 10 defensive scores in the 2016 season, and Saban’s squad notched its 11th on a Pick 6 from Ryan Anderson that put the Huskies in a 10-point hole late in the first half. No doubt the Tide have the best defense, although I do believe Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence have a chance to give the Alabama run game problems, and Jalen Hurts may have to consistently avoid a Tigers pass rush.
Special Teams: Even. Not having a healthy Eddie Jackson hurts the Tide, while Artavis Scott was the Tigers’ primary punt returner against Ohio State.
Coaching: Alabama. Saban is going for yet another national title. He remains the standard in the sport. But give Swinney credit for another good coaching job, especially after the team played with so much fire this past fall.
Intangibles: Alabama. The Tide feel no pressure at all, as this is a team that is used to being the hunted and used to the big stage.
Matchup To Watch
Clemson offensive line vs. Alabama front seven
If the Peach Bowl was the first time you watched Alabama play this season, you watched a defensive clinic. And that prowess starts up front with a defensive line featuring elite pass rushers and run stuffers as well as linebackers that can play both the run and pass. Lineman Jonathan Allen arguably should have been in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony because he’s one of the best players in the nation regardless of position, and it’s one of the best front sevens we have seen recently in the sport despite coming into the year replacing several starters. The Washington offensive line was completely overmatched in the Peach Bowl, and I’m not sure there’s any O-Line that can neutralize the ‘Bama defensive front. The ‘Bama D-Line was the biggest reason why U-Dub had trouble moving the football. After the Huskies’ lone scoring drive, the remaining possessions (13) featured nine punts, two interceptions, a lost fumble and the end of the half. That Washington offense features stud players, but the unit was completely dominated by the Tide defense. And it all started up front.
Spread: Alabama -7
Alabama vs. Clemson Prediction
Saban’s squad is the best team in the country. If it makes a few mistakes, then it can give Clemson extra chances and be prone to an upset. I just can’t see that happening, though. This is a team that has been far and beyond better than any other this season. Even in a down year for the SEC, ‘Bama flexed its muscle. It will continue with another national title and the continuation of a dynasty. But Swinney will have his team ready, and I can see the Clemson defensive front causing issues for ‘Bama’s O-Line for the duration of the game. A big play by the Tide defense is the difference, however, and it allows Saban and crew to score the win.
Alabama vs. Clemson Final Score Prediction: Alabama 30, Clemson 23