The College Football Playoff National Championship is nearly upon us. The teams are exactly who we’ve come to expect to see in this game.
Clemson (14-0, 8-0 in ACC)
The Tigers, playing in the Playoff for the fourth year in a row, look as scary as ever. The emergences of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, and receiver Justyn Ross have given them an elite offense to go with the best defense in the country. They have no weaknesses and have only looked vulnerable once all season, when they had a close call at home against Syracuse in Week 5. Since then, they’ve been a juggernaut.
The defense, which is No. 1 according to both S&P+ and the visual judgment of most people who have seen it play, is perfect. Star tackle Dexter Lawrence is suspended for a positive PED test, pending an appeal, but the unit still gave up just 3 points in the Cotton Bowl semifinal against Notre Dame. The rest of the Clemson line more than picked up the slack, which makes sense; it has three other potential NFL first-round picks.
Alabama (14-0, 9-0 in SEC)
The Crimson Tide destroyed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl semifinal, taking the No. 1 offense in the sport and reducing it to a shell of itself until the game was in enough control that it didn’t really matter. Nick Saban’s program looks more dominant than ever, which is saying something, given how dominant it’s been for years.
This Tide team is more dangerous than previous Tide teams, because its offense has gone from merely being a tool to grind games out behind a great defense to an unstoppable force itself. Saban has modernized his offense over the years, to the point that the Tide now have an all-time elite QB in Tua Tagovailoa, a bunch of star receivers (not just one headliner, as has been tradition), and the usual stable of powerful but quick backs. The defense also has maybe the best player in the whole country in tackle Quinnen Williams.
The Tide have been an even bigger juggernaut than Clemson. Their reward is to face the Tigers for the fourth Playoff in a row, after a great trilogy so far.
Yeah. The previous results:
- Bama beat Clemson in 2015’s national championship game, 45-40. This was the game that saw Clemson QB Deshaun Watson break through as a superstar. He was great, but it came in a losing effort, in large part thanks to a daring onside kick by the Tide.
- Clemson beat Bama in 2016’s championship game, 35-31. Watson finished off a comeback win by rolling to his right and throwing a touchdown to Hunter Renfrow in the final seconds.
- Bama beat Clemson in 2017’s Sugar Bowl semifinal, 24-6. This was the least exciting of the three meetings so far, as Alabama’s defense dominated.
And now they’re back. Bama, always the favorite in the past, will be again. The Tide are 6.5-point favorites on early lines, with the over/under set at 61.
January 7 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, with streaming via WatchESPN.
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.