Then there were two.
On Monday night in Tampa, Florida, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 2 Clemson Tigers will battle, once again, for the National Championship, in a rematch of last years’ instant classic title game. Entering this matchup, the Crimson Tide already have won a remarkable twenty-six in a row, and are seeking to give Nick Saban his sixth title, making him the most decorated coach in college football history. Saban has been able to construct one of the most dominant sports dynasties in recent memory, and scarily enough, this year’s ’Bama team might be his best yet.
Despite Alabama’s record run, don’t count out Dabo Swinney and Clemson yet, especially after their recent 31-0 drubbing of No. 3 Ohio State last Saturday. The Tigers have earned a 13-1 record with a number of breakout performances from their Heisman candidate QB Deshaun Watson.
What could give Clemson the edge? The biggest threat to Alabama in recent years has been talented dual-threat quarterbacks who beat them with their legs. Watson, the senior from Gainesville, Georgia, who is as talented as it gets, is exactly that. In 2016, Watson notched 4,173 total passing yards with 38 touchdowns. In fact, one year ago, he totaled 405 yards passing with four touchdowns against Alabama in the championship game, and he’s returned for more.
The stats don’t lie. However, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. If this year has shown us anything, it’s that all of the top ranked teams look extremely talented until they faced Alabama. The Crimson Tide performed a slow beatdown of No. 4 Washington 31-7 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in the semi-final game. Alabama is strong and well rounded on both sides of the ball, and their defense ranks best in the nation, led by senior tackle Jonathan Allen.
The x-factor in this game, however, will prove to be the performance of Alabama’s true freshman QB Jalen Hurts, who has led the Tide to an undefeated season under center. Another intriguing player to watch will be ’Bama’s RB Bo Scarbrough, who ran for a season high 180 yards and 2 touchdowns last Saturday against Washington.
The Tide’s offensive preparation will come with a slight twist this week, too. Nick Saban made the surprise announcement of the removal of three-year offensive coordinator (OC) Lane Kiffin, who has accepted a position as head coach at Florida Atlantic. Attempting to avoid distraction, new OC Steve Sarkisian will call the plays in Monday’s championship game.
Prediction: Alabama defeats Clemson 31-21, to win the school’s 17th national title.
(Copyright 2017 Harrison Valentine)