The No.1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No.2 Clemson Tigers meet for the 4th time in 4 years with the Tide defeating Clemson in the 2016 National Championship game, 45-40, the Tigers defeating the Tide in the 2017 national title game, 35-31, and the Tide defeating Clemson in the semifinals of the playoffs last season, 24-6. The teams will collide tonight at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, about 50 minutes south of San Francisco. Here’s a look at this classic along with the predicted winner.
No.1 Alabama (14-0) vs. No.2 Clemson (14-0)
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA. 68,500
7 PM CT
Chris, Kirk, Maria, Tom
Whistles, Big Ten, Mike Cannon
Bama by 5 1/2
Nicholas Lou Saban
Born: October 31,1951, Fairmont, West VA, 67 years old.
12 years at Alabama
8 SEC Championships, 2003,, ‘09, ‘12, ‘14-’16, 2018.
5 National titles at Alabama, 2009, ‘11, ‘12, ‘15, ‘17. 1 national title at LSU, 2003
CFB Playoff, 6-2
Overall: 232-62-1, 79%
The gold standard for college football coaches in the history of the game. Bear Bryant always has a good argument with his 6 national titles, and I don’t want to compare them really. Both were and are the best of all time. Bear had man terrific teams and years and so has Saban. Saban has a contract through 2025, so there could very well be several more national titles which would cement his legacy as the greatest of all time.
William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney
November 20,1969, Pelham, AL. 49 years old.
11 years at Clemson
5 time ACC Champion, 2011, 2015—18
1 National Championship, 2016
If S is the greatest in the game today and maybe of all time, Dabo is second in greatest today. He came in as an interim coach in 2008, and has hung in there and built a juggernaut with his terrific recruiting, his family atmosphere in a place where it’s fun to be a football player, and his development of players along with his coaching acumen. He’s not playing for second place tonight.
Tua Tagovailoa, 223-of-321, 70%, 3,671 yards, 41 TDs, 4 ints. Tua has put on a clinic in 2018 on how to play quarterback in college football, or at any level. He was superb in the Tide’s 45-34 semifinal victory over Oklahoma, completing 24 of 27 passes for 318 yards, 4 TDs and 0 ints. He has 400+ family members coming to the game. My response to that is how is it possible to have that many family members? Wow. For Tua to be here in pretty much peak physical health, after a high ankle sprain in the Georgia game looked ominous going forward, you have to give a major assist to Dr.’s. Lyle Cain and Norman Waldrop, the orthopedists who performed the “tightrope” procedure on Tua’s ankle. It’s an intricate surgery that was invented by Dr. Thomas Clanton of Vail, CO. It’s a procedure in which surgeons slip a high strength suture through small holes in the bone, fasten it with small metal buttons and then tighten it as you would a zip tie (information from SI.com). Pretty intricate and cutting edge procedure by Dr.’s Cain and Waldrop. They deserve a major amount of credit. Tua is healthy and ready to take on the Tigers. The 2 doctors performed the same surgery on Jalen Hurts, Jonah Williams and Ross Pierschbacher as well and their respective recoveries were equally as impressive.
Damien Harris is the Tide’s leading rusher with 819 yards and 9 TDs. But Josh Jacobs may be the Bellcow with 593 yards and 11 TDs. Jacobs rushed for 98 yards against the Sooners. He’s a workhorse and a take it to the house back. Quite a player.
On the perimeter, there are a wealth of weapons. Jerry Jeudy leads the team with 63 receptions for 1,176 yards and 13 TDs. Henry Ruggs III is next with 45 receptions for 738 yards and 11 TDs. The explosive Jaylen Waddle has pulled in 43 passes for 823 yards and 7 TDs and tight end Irv Smith Jr. has 40 receptions for 667 yards and 7 TDs. And the awesome DeVonta Smith adds 36 receptions for 626 yards and 6 TDs.
On defense, outside linebacker Dylan Moses leads the team with 82 tackles, has 10 for loss and 3 1/2 sacks. The great defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has posted 67 tackles, 18 for loss and 8 sacks. He’s the enforcer in the middle of the Crimson Tide defense. The Tide has 14 interceptions on the season led by cornerback Saivion Smith’s 3. Deionte Thompson, Xavier McKinney, Mack Wilson and Shyheim Carter each have 2. Carter has taken 2 back to the house and Smith and McKinney have each taken one int the distance. Defensive end Isaiah Buggs has 13 1/2 tackles for loss and a team leading 9 1/2 sacks. Outside linebacker Christian Miller, who is questionable tonight with a hamstring injury, has 11 TFLs and 8 sacks. So a highly formidable defense. The Crimson Tide is 5th in the country in scoring defense giving up 16.2 points per game.
The No.1 high school player in the country in 2018, Trevor Lawrence, has been nothing short of spectacular in his freshman campaign for the Tigers. After becoming the starter in game 5 this season season, taking over from Kelly Bryant, who eventually transferred to Missouri, Lawrence has completed 239 of 366 passes, 65%, for 2,933 yards, 27 TDs against only 4 interceptions. Against Notre Dame in the semifinal, Lawrence was 27 of 39 for 327 yards, 3 TDs and 0 ints. The young guy plays like a fourth year senior. He throws a perfect ball from his front foot and his from back foot.
And he has the weapons around him that make him so effective. Running back Travis Etienne has rushed for 1,573 yards and 22 TDs. He’s a gamebreaker. 6’4” wide receiver Tee Higgins has caught 56 passes for 855 yards and 11 TDs. Amari Rogers has 52 receptions for 540 yards and 4 TDs. Stud freshman Justyn Ross, from Central Phenix City High School in Alabama, is 6’4”, and has 40 receptions for 847 yards and 8 TDs. Ross was superb against Notre Dame catching 6 passes for 148 yards and 2 TDs. And the always reliable and ageless one, Hunter Renfrow, has pulled in 47 passes for 534 yards and 1 TD. He’s a Wes Welker, Danny Amendola receiver for the Tigers. Highly clutch.
On defense, the Tigers will once again be without first round draft pick and 340 pound defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence is suspended for this game and was suspended in the Notre Dame game by the NCAA for taking a banned substance. But tackle Christian Wilkins, (13 TFLs, 5 sacks) and ends Clelin Ferrell (18 1/2 TFLs and 11 1/2 sacks) and Austin Bryant (14 TFLs and 8 1/2 sacks) make up a very stout threesome that Ross Pierschbacher, Jonah Williams and company will have to block. Clemson’s leading tackler is linebacker Isaiah Simmons who has 79 on the season with 8 TFLs. The Tigers have posted 12 interceptions on the season with Simmons taking one back to the house for a 27 yard TD.
The Clemson defense is No.1 in the country in scoring defense giving up only 12.9 points per game.
Final analysis and prediction
This is a heavyweight bout for the ages. Ali-Frazuh, Tyson-Holyfield, this game has it all. The lines of scrimmage on both sides will be critically important as you would expect. Can Jonah Williams and the Crimson Tide o line hold up against Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and the vaunted Clemson front 7. Can Clemson’s offensive line led by tackle Mitch Hyatt hold off Quinnen Williams, Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and company. And how will the teams’ respective secondaries hold up against the potent passing attacks each teams possess. Will Clemson go after talented but young freshman Patrick Surtain II who had a tough night against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and will Alabama take advantage of the Clemson secondary with their superb receivers. Can Travis Etienne get yards and get in the open field and take it to the house for the Tigers. That’ll be tough against the Crimson Tide front 7. Can Jacobs and Harris pound out the yards for the Tide and break explosive plays.
And finally, which quarterback will shine the brightest. Will it be Tua or Trevor.
That’s where I see the Tide having a slight advantage. Tua has the experience in this game and his numbers are all off the charts. So are Trevor’s, but he just doesn’t have the experience that Tua does in this game. I think Tua having his 400+ family members at Levi’s Stadium will be totally amped up. I look for Tua to have a little better game than Trevor and earn the Crimson Tide their 18th national championship all time and 6th under Nick Saban.