By Zach Walker
#2 Clemson Tigers vs #1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Monday – January 9 – 7:00 pm
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa – Florida
Records Before the Game
#2 Clemson Tigers (13-1 ACC)
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0 SEC)
The Game Setup
Anybody want to complain about this final matchup, between the number one team in the country versus the number two team, in a rematch of the title game from a year ago. Both teams in this matchup laid waste to their opponents in the championship play-in games, and totally looked like the better teams in the process. The rematch really adds that supreme dynamic that so rarely gets to manifest itself out of conference.
I think Deshaun Watson is going to be a great pro quarterback. He’s highly mobile, on the positive side of the accuracy scale, and has a compact frame to help him escape pressure. The difference this time around for Watson is that he is a major money game. Most scouts shrug off bowl games for those going into the draft, but for quarterbacks, and in the finale to the season, the Hubble might as well be gleaming off of Watson’s helmet. If he plays well, he’s a top-ten pick, maybe a trade up candidate. Watson has weapons, though. Two receivers that he trusts, in top-five pick Mike Williams, and utility receiver Hunter Renfrow. The Clemson Tigers’ running back, Wayne Gallman, is going to put up a stronger fight than the Washington back that faced the Tide a week ago, then of course, there’s Watson’s mobility to account for, where he displayed his skills against Ohio State scoring twice.
The Clemson defense has some studs, maybe not the same extent of names that Alabama will roll out, but they get the work done. Carlos Watkins and Dexter Lawrence in the middle, and Christian Wilkins and Clelein Ferrell, these guys had six tackles for loss against Ohio State. Ben Boulware is a great linebacker, and nightmare in the middle of the field. This is a great battle, an equally tasty matchup in the trenches as the Bama front versus the Clemson protection.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Jalen Hurns did not have a good game against Washington’s Han-gry defense that had to keep the Huskies in the game for them. Hurns completed half of his fourteen passes for 57 yards. Even on the ground, he only gained 50 yards off of nineteen carries. It was big Bo Scarbrough that absolutely stomped all over the Georgia Dome, picking up 180 yards on nineteen carries and two touchdowns, and he looked very Derrick Henry-like doing it. I don’t know who’s on Clemson’s defense to take on Scarbrough one-on-one in the open field, but he’s the epic Alabama sleeved Ace. OJ Howard is a beast, and was straight-up unguardable in last year’s finale, racking up 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I doubt he’ll duplicate but he’s really a great player on this Alabama offense.
It’s all about those N-O-T’s, or non-offensive touchdowns. The defense has eleven of those this season, and one last week, that even though it happened in the first half, everyone felt that was the balloon bursting. The Bama talent on defense is so hard to bet against, they’ve got dangers all over the place. Minkah Fitzpatrick had an interception of Jake Browning last week, and could make it three straight games with a pick, if he can put hands on a Deshaun Watson pass.
Clemson 31 – Alabama 30.
With great anticipation, comes the reward of the best possible game, with a late comeback.