In the second year of the College Football Playoff, the championship game pits #1 and undefeated Clemson against the storied program of #2 Alabama. Both teams are pretty evenly matched which will make for another exciting title game.
How Clemson can win
Clemson is the top ranked, undefeated team and yet they find themselves as the underdogs. Quarterback Deshaun Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, and he’s going to have to be big in order for the Tigers to capture its second National Title in school history. Watson threw for 3,699 yards and 32 touchdowns, but is a mobile threat as well as he rushed for 1,032 more yards and added 12 touchdowns. Alabama has had trouble with running quarterbacks in the past (hello Johnny Football) and Watson could be the next to test that stout defense. It wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t know any of the other skill players of Clemson, but you should. Running back Wayne Gallman will play a big role as a hard but shifty runner that will have to take advantage of his touches and be Clemson’s x-factor. If Clemson can lull the Tide to sleep as they key on Watson, Gallman could make Alabama pay. Receiver Artavis Scott and tight end Jordan Leggett, Watson’s favorite targets, need to also make advantage of their opportunities. Clemson’s defense though will arguably need to be bigger than anything offensive related if the Tigers want to win. The Tiger defense has been strong all year and kept an explosive Oklahoma team in check in the semifinal round. Clemson’s secondary is much better than Michigan State’s so Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker is going to have to work harder to make plays than he did against the Spartans. Alabama receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart will need to be taken out of their game, thus forcing Coker to find other targets if Clemson wants to be successful. Then there’s Shaq Lawson, Clemson’s best defensive player, who we’re not sure how long will play due to a knee injury. Lawson is not only the Tigers best defensive player, but he’s also the overall team’s leader and he’ll need to lift his team both figuratively and literally. With all of this being said, the biggest thing Clemson needs to do is score quickly and not fall behind early. Alabama’s game is all about taking the air out of the football, killing clock and running the football. Clemson and Watson can’t let that happen, and the Tigers will need Watson to have a Vince Young vs. USC like effort in order to pull off the upset.
How Alabama can win
Alabama plays a lot like they did when they won in 2009, 2011 and 2012. They play remarkably impressive, smash mouth defense and they run the ball well. The Tide want to win the game in the trenches and with their front seven– that’s exactly what it will take on Mon. night. On the flip side of Clemson’s keys, Alabama needs to get ahead early. Coker showed he can win a game in the semifinal game against Michigan State so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make some plays early. In fact, he’ll need to in order for the Tide to do what they want to do and that’s run the football. I keep saying Alabama runs the ball, yet haven’t even mentioned the name yet. That name is Derrick Henry and he is this seasons Heisman Trophy winner. Henry was largely used as a decoy last week, but if things are going to go Alabama’s way then Henry needs to step up as he has all season. Clemson has not faced a bruising back like Henry all season and he’ll need to wear down that defense and force the Tigers to play four quarters of physical football. Going back to that smash mouth defense, it might be Saban’s best yet and Watson has not faced a defense remotely as good. If Alabama doesn’t let Watson beat them with his legs or big plays then you’d have to like the Tide’s chances. In short, Alabama is going to have to force Clemson into playing its game. Henry needs somewhere in the ballpark of 25 or so carries, Coker needs to convert enough third downs, and the defense needs to force Clemson to put together long methodical drives. If Alabama can get into a game where they can take the air out of the ball and keep the clock rolling then they’ll be National Champions.