No.1 Alabama (14-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-1)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa (65,800)
7 PM CT/8 PM ET
Chris Fowler, Herbie, Sam, Tom Rinaldi
Refs: Big 12
Deshaun Watson is the key to me in this game versus the Alabama defense. Deshaun has thrown for 40 TDs this season against a high number of interceptions, 17 of them. He threw 2 ints against Ohio State last week, a team that intercepted the ball a lot this year. They didn't matter. Clemson still won 31-0 and Deshaun did a lot of super things in the game. His ability to pass AND run could be the difference. Minkah Fitzpatrick has 6 ints this season. The Tide has 11 defensive touchdowns this season which is totally exceptional. Some are saying this could be the best defense of all time. I'd say it has a pretty good argument.
Jonathan Allen, Minkah, Reuben Foster and the rest of the secondary will be tested by the Tigers star receivers, Mike Williams, Deon Cain, Artavis Scott, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Jordan Leggett. If Alabama can get pressure on Watson that would be highly beneficial to their secondary.
On offense, the key question is, do Sark and Jalen have the right chemistry, can Bo Scarbrough go off again against a solid Clemson defense, can Sark get Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, O.J. Howard and Gehrig Dieter heavily involved in the passing game. Jalen will need to be able to pass it and make some big plays. The offensive line of Cam Robinson and company will need to open holes for Bo and Damien Harris. And they'll have to protect Jalen. Jalen may well make big plays as a runner in this one. He may have to if the passing game is not clicking.
Final Analysis and Verdict
This is one I've gone back and forth on this week. Two phenomenal teams and a super matchup of the undoubtedly best two teams in the country. I'm expecting a classic with more defense this year. But in the end, I'm liking Deshaun and the Tigers to capture their first national title since 1981 and establish Dabo's legacy as the second best coach in college football with a lot of momentum for him and his program to build on and more national titles to win.
Clemson 27, Alabama 24