This is the game Clemson wanted more than anything after losing to Alabama last year 45-40. Losing teams and players always reflect how they could’a, should’a, would’a played that game if they had it to do over. Winners bask in the limelight and sometimes take for granted that they might face the same hurdles and jump over them as easily as before.
The more I watched Dabo Swinney (Clemson coach) go on and on about his team, his fans, and his believers, the more I get the feeling he was calling out Nick Saban that things are going to be different this time around. He almost sounded arrogant about what was to happen next. I do not blame him. How would you feel after beating Ohio State 31-0?
Nick Saban answered all questions after handling Washington just the way he always does. He shrugs his shoulders like he is not sure if he has any of the answers. His responses sound the same as they did after beating Kent State earlier in the year. He takes nothing for granted, is careful to give too much (if any) praise, and lets his team hear his message through the press.
How similar are these teams:
Touchdowns scored: Ala: 70 Clem: 70
Points per game: Ala: 39.4 Clem: 39.5
Sacks by defense: Ala: 50 Clem: 49
Clemson: The biggest challenge for the Tigers is coming down and getting ready for Alabama. If they ever had to guard against reading too many newspapers, this is it. However, this team of Tigers has had one mission, and that is to play Alabama again. The classic rematch favors the previous loser. Swinney knows it, and so does Nick Saban.
By shutting out Ohio State, the Tigers showed their defensive strength. The Buckeyes needed to run the football but got nothing that allowed them to use their play action passing for big plays. The Crimson Tide had better come up with some wrinkles to open the holes for their runners or it will be a tough night for them as well. Overall team speed on defense for Clemson is also on par with Alabama.
Quarterback DeShaun Watson will probably be the difference maker one way or the other. His propensity for putting the football in tight spots leads to interceptions, and Ohio State got two off him. The Tide does not get many interceptions (16), but teams average an anemic 5.66 yards per attempt.
Alabama: Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts is the single reason the Crimson Tide is back in the championship game. His passing stats are solid and he is the second leading rusher on the team. He can escape the pass rush of Clemson and turn them into big plays by passing or running. Every time I think his passing arm is not strong enough he proves me wrong with something.
Can the defense hold Watson and the Clemson offense? Check out these NCAA statistics for the Tide: Total defense: #2 / Rush defense: #1 / Points allowed per game: #1.
Will the absence of Lane Kiffin have an impact on the team? Yes it will, but Kiffin’s leaving is not due to anything detrimental about him. He did an excellent job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. If the Tide has any trouble on offense, it will be the Clemson defense that is to blame, and they want to show everybody that defense is played in other places than Tuscaloosa.
Clemson: 34, Alabama: 24