Clemson vs. Alabama prediction: Can the Tigers win a second title?
|Monday, January 9, 2017, 8:01 AM- -|
Another opportunity awaits the Clemson program Monday night in Tampa. Will the Tigers grab a program-changing win?
Second-ranked Clemson takes on top-ranked Alabama in a rematch of last year’s title game, a game that Alabama won 45-40. Let’s be honest, everything that needs to be written about this game has been put in print or in digital form hundreds of times this week.
That’s why I am going to take a slightly different route this week in the prediction. Besides, everybody knows this game will go beyond the X’s and O’s. This game will be won with heart, attitude and determination. The two teams are fairly even across the board, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes and shows the most heart will likely hoist the trophy.
College Football Playoff National Championship
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium (71,000) Tampa, Florida
Kickoff: 8:17 p.m. (Eastern)
ESPN TV--(Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Samantha Ponder, Tom Rinaldi)
ESPN Radio (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe, Ian Fitzsimmons)
CLEMSON RADIO NETWORK: (Don Munson, Rodney Williams, Michael Palmer)
Overall: Alabama Leads 13-3
at Neutral: Alabama Leads 4-3
at Alabama, Alabama Leads 7-0
at Clemson, Alabama leads 2-0
Last Meeting: 45-40 Alabama, 2016 National
First Meeting: Clemson 35-0 in 1900
Last Clemson Win: 25-0 in 1905
Streak: Alabama won 13 in a row
Streaks and Milestones in Range
*Artavis Scott has at least one catch in 37 straight games. He set Clemson record when he had two catches against Ohio State, breaking the mark of 36 games in a row by Jerry Butler and DeAndre Hopkins.
*Deshaun Watson has 38 touchdown passes this season and needs three to break the ACC record of 40 set by Jameis Winston of Florida State in 2013.
*Watson has 46 touchdowns rushing and passing and needs two to break his own Clemson single season record. He had 47 last year.
*A victory over Alabama would give Watson nine wins over Top 25 teams as a starting quarterback. The record is eight set by Tajh Boyd from 2010-13 and Watson’s total of eight entering the Alabama game.
*Dexter Lawrence needs one sack to set the Clemson freshman record for sacks in a season. He has seven. Michael Dean Perry (1984) and Chester McGlockton (1989) both had seven. •Jordan Leggett needs two touchdown receptions to set the Clemson season mark for touchdown catches by a Clemson tight end.
*Deshaun Watson has thrown a touchdown pass in 30 consecutive games.
WHAT ALABAMA NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
*Just be Alabama. Nick Saban has his program running smooth. He recruits outstanding defensive talent, a stout offensive line, good running backs and quarterbacks that can manage a game. He then goes out and wins a National Championship every year.
In last season’s title game, the Tide allowed Watson to run and throw wild, and the players have vowed they will do things different this time around. They may change a few things, but this is Alabama, and they will do what they do and won’t change things too drastically. You don’t win multiple championships by changing things every time the wind blows. Alabama will play good defense and run the football.
*Contain Clemson’s ability to run the ball. Saban’s defenses have typically struggled against dynamic, dual-threat quarterbacks, and they had a tough time with Ole Miss (the only team with a quarterback comparable to Watson) earlier this season. If Clemson s going to have success, Watson and running back Wayne Gallman have to run the football enough to keep Alabama’s safeties from playing too deep. All year the Alabama defense has gotten away with playing their safeties deep because the front seven controls the running game.
WHAT CLEMSON NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
*Run the football effectively. The Tigers have to keep the Bama defense honest in order for the passing game to work. That means the threat of Watson running the football brings a safety closer to the line of scrimmage. Clemson’s offensive line? They need to have their best game of the season Monday night, and open enough holes for Clemson’s offense to work in rhythm. And, they have to give Watson enough time to find his receivers.
*Play smart. I’ve been told several times over the last week that what hurt so much about last season’s loss is that the players and coaches feel like they should have beaten Alabama by double digits. However, special teams miscues, costly turnovers and absolutely horrific secondary play doomed the Tigers to a loss. Head coach Dabo Swinney started off spring practice last February by showing the team five plays that cost them a title. The Tigers have to be sharper this time around.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Look for this to be a conservative affair early. The Tide will be breaking in new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and both teams will try and feel each other out without making a critical mistake. That means a lot of conservative play calls while the offenses settle in.
Once they get settled, however, look out. The Clemson defense will make Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts pass the football, while Alabama will try to contain Clemson’s running game and force Watson into mistakes because of pressure.
If you just look at the stats, never a wise move when trying to predict the outcome of games, Alabama’s defense appears to have some sort of colossal edge and it should be enough to win the title. But they have put up tremendous numbers while not facing an offense like Clemson’s since….Clemson last season. The Bama defense may be better, but so is Clemson’s offense, which is healthy and will have both Mike Williams and Deon Cain to lean on.
Alabama has endeavored to create disrespect this week, grasping at straws for motivation. Clemson has had that motivation for almost 365 days.
Watson and a special group of players go out in style, with the Tigers making a big score late to win and bring Clemson its second National Championship.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 26, ALABAMA 20
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 24-21 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 28-21 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 28-17 Clemson
Lawton Swann - 6-8 PM on Fox Sports Radio 1400 and iHeart Radio - 31-23 Clemson
Tom Meares - Staff writer - 42-20 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 24-20 Clemson