Clemson vs. Alabama prediction: Can Clemson Roll the Tide?
|Monday, January 1, 2018, 8:01 AM- -|
A New Years’ Day rumble in the Superdome with a trip to the College Football Playoff National Championship on the line. It’s Clemson vs. Alabama for the third straight year. It’s Dabo Swinney’s playful exuberance against Nick Saban’s forced misery. It’s the youthful contender vs. the establishment.
Yep. We can’t wait to get this one started.
No. 1 CLEMSON VS. No. 4 ALABAMA
WHEN: MONDAY, JAN. 1, 2018, 8:45 p.m. EST
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (72,500), New Orleans, La.
TELEVISION – ESPN, Play-By-Play Announcer - Joe Tessitore, Color Commentator - Todd Blackledge
Sideline Correspondents - Holly Rowe, Laura Rutledge.
NATIONAL RADIO – ESPN, Play-By-Play Announcer - Bill Rosinski, Color Commentator - David Norrie
Sideline Correspondent - Ian Fitzsimmons
CLEMSON RADIO - CLEMSON TIGERS NETWORK, Play-By-Play Announcer - Don Munson, Color Commentator - Rodney Williams, Sideline Correspondent - Reggie Merriweather.
CLEMSON AND BAMA
Clemson and Alabama have two of the top football traditions in the South. They have combined to win each of the last two National Championships and both programs have the most league titles in their respective conference histories. Clemson has won 17 ACC titles, the most in ACC history, Alabama has 26 to lead SEC institutions. The two schools have met just three on the gridiron since 1975, the regular season opener for the 2008 and the National Championship game each of the last two years.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Category Clemson Alabama Winning Percentage 92.3 (T-2) 91.7 (6) Scoring Offense 35.4 (21) 39.1 (12) Scoring Defense 1 2.8 (2) 11.5 (1) Total Offense 448.1 (31) 465.4 (20) Total Defense 277.9 (6) 257.8 (2) Rushing Offense 204.1 (33) 265.3 (10) Rushing Defense 112.8 (13) 94.1 (3) Passing Offense 244.1 (52) 200.1 (86) Passing Defense 165.1 (8) 163.7 (7) Pass Eff Offense 138.5 (43) 161.1 (7) Pass Eff Defense 105.0 (6) 98.9 (2) Comp % Offense 67.2 (6) 62.0 (36) Int by Defense 14 (T-27) 15 (T-18) Sacks per Game 3.4 (3) 2.6 (T-24) Sacks Allowed Game 2.0 (T-62) 1.8 (T-51) TFL per Game 8.0 (9) 6.7 (T-40) TFL p/Game Allowed 5.2 (38) 3.8 (4) Turnover Margin +0.4 (T-34) +1.0 (T-7) Turnovers Gained 19 (T-50) 20 (T-40) Turnovers Lost 14 (T-25) 8 (T-1) Net Punting 36.8 (92) 40.9 (18) Punt Return Offense 11.1 (23) 7.8 (60) Punt Return Defense 9.8 (91) 1.3 (T-1) KO Return Offense 19.7 (93) 23.2 (26) KO Return Defense 19.8 (44) 19.3 (33) First Downs 295 (T-12) 275 (32) First Downs Allowed 191 (11) 179 (T-6) Third-Down % 46.7 (10) 41.5 (55) Third-Down % DEF 27.8 (6) 33.0 (21) Fourth-Down % 75.0 (T-3) 81.3 (1) Fourth-Down % DEF 56.0 (T-89) 35.3 (11) Time of Possession 30:53 (44) 29:50 (67)* Note: National rankings in (parentheses
CURRENT COACHES ON BOTH STAFFS
Clemson assistant head coach, special teams coach and tight ends coach Danny Pearman coached at Alabama from 1990 to 1997. He was a graduate assistant in 1990 and became full-time in 1991. He was on the staff when Alabama won the National Championship in 1992. Alabama had four seasons of at least 10 wins when he was there and went to six bowl games. Current Alabama assistant Burton Burns coached at Clemson. Burns was at Clemson under Tommy Bowden from 1999-06. He was Clemson’s running backs coach those years. His final season he coached freshman C.J. Spiller and sophomore James Davis, one of the top running back combinations in Clemson history. Davis finished his career second in school history in rushing yards (3881) and Spiller is third (3547).
Each of the top three winningest coaches in Clemson history in terms of total victories are Alabama graduates. Frank Howard, Alabama class of 1931, leads the way with a 165-118-12 record from 1940-69. Dabo Swinney moved into second place this year and now has a record of 101-29. He is a 1993 Alabama graduate. Danny Ford, Alabama class of 1970, is third with a 96- 29-4 record. Howard and Ford are in the College Football Hall of Fame. In fact, Ford was inducted a month ago. Overall, five Alabama graduates have been among the 25 Clemson head football coaches over the years. The others are Hootie Ingram, a 1955 Alabama graduate, who was 12-21 from 1970-72, and Charley Pell, a 1961 Alabama graduate, who was 18-4-1 in two seasons, 1977-78.
TWO GREAT DEFENSES
Two of the top defenses in the nation will face each other in the Sugar Bowl. That is most obvious when it comes to scoring defense. Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 11.5 points per game, while Clemson is second, allowing 12.8 points per game. Clemson is second in scoring defense (12.8), sixth in total defense (277.9), eighth in pass defense (165.1) and 13th in rushing defense (112.9). Alabama is first in scoring defense (11.5), second in total defense (257.8), third in rushing defense (94.1), and seventh in pass defense (163.7).
WHY ALABAMA CAN WIN
*They have the revenge factor, just like Clemson had last season. I’ve been around this Alabama team this week, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team as focused on one goal as this one. In fact, it’s almost like the focus is on Clemson more than winning the game. That can be good, and it can be bad.
*Sledgehammer. Clemson’s Swinney called the Alabama offense a sledgehammer during interviews last week. The Crimson Tide don’t want balance and they don’t like cute and they don’t like pretty. The Tide rumbled for 200 yards or more in every game but the opener against Florida State, and the battle with LSU. They have an outstanding group of backs in Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris and Bo Scarbrough. If they get into a groove, control the clock and the tempo of the game, it could be a long night for the Tigers. Both teams will be looking at third down – can Alabama convert enough to keep their offense on the field?
*The run defense. The Tide defense is giving up well under three yards per carry with just eight touchdowns on the season. Clemson’s identity this season is running the football, but if the Bama front seven shuts down any semblance of a running game, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant might struggle making plays down the field. Bryant is averaging just 10.98 yards per completion, which is 95th nationally.
WHY CLEMSON CAN WIN
*Balanced attack. Clemson has one of the most balanced attacks in the nation in terms of yardage. Clemson averages 448 yards per game, 204 yards rushing and 244 passing. Only two Clemson teams have averaged at least 200 yards a game rushing and passing. The 2000 Clemson team led by Woody Dantzler averaged 224 a game on the ground and 213 passing. The 2015 team averaged 223 rushing and 291.5 passing with Deshaun Watson running the offense. The Tigers showed their balance against Georgia Tech with 221 yards rushing and 207 passing for 428 total. It was the third time this year Clemson had at least 200 of each in the same game and the 17th time Clemson has done it in the last three years. The Tigers are 34-0 under Dabo Swinney when they have at least 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in the same game. All-time in Clemson history the program is 84-0- 1 with at least 200 yards of each.
*A veteran offensive line. This group has played a lot of football, and they’ve won a lot of games. Clemson returned four starters from last year’s offensive line and the group has produced, a big reason Clemson is in the top 35 in the nation in rushing. Clemson’s starting five offensive linemen have collectively started 136 games with 193 game appearances and 9,314 snaps. Mitch Hyatt is a junior who has started 41 of his 42 career games, while Tyrone Crowder has started 39 of 47.
*Dominant defense. Sure, that Bama defense is awesome. But while Clemson’s offense is tough to defend because of the threat of the run and pass, defensive coordinator Brent Venables has to key on stopping the Bama run game and his defense has been dominant so far this season. The Clemson defense ranks in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense, total defense, fewest yards per play allowed and sacks. Two defenses stand out in Clemson history and this Clemson team certainly compares. The 1990 and 2014 Clemson defenses led the nation in total defense, the only years Clemson has accomplished that No. 1 ranking in that category. The 2014 defense actually led the nation in 11 different categories and eight players off that defense are now on NFL rosters.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
I’ve been back and forth about this game all week. I can’t remember the last time I picked against this Clemson team, but there was a thought earlier in the week that this would be the game. As I’ve mentioned, Alabama is focused and they’ve got the revenge factor and they’ve got Nick Saban and a lot of the intangibles.
The more I thought about it, however, I realized that a lot of that stuff goes out the window by the fourth play of the game. Heck, defensive end Clelin Ferrell tried to tell us that last week – eventually it comes down to players making plays. Most of the time, the best team wins.
I think Clemson is the best team. Make no mistake – this will be a war of attrition. Turnovers, as always, will be key. Someone has to make a play on special teams. We don’t know how Kelly Bryant will respond in the biggest game of his career.
The teams will trade body blows throughout the contest. But ESPN’s Joe Tessitore compared this to the Ali-Frazier fights of the 70’s. In the Thrilla in Manila, Frazier won the middle rounds but Ali’s speed and tempo took over late. Sound familiar?
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 24, ALABAMA 16
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 24-20 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 31-20 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 24-10 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 27-23 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 24-17 Clemson