The Crimson Tide defeated Oklahoma 45-34 and Clemson crushed an overmatched Notre Dame team that shouldn’t have been in the playoff, 30-3, it should have been Georgia, to set up a classic national championship game as the Crimson Tide and the Tigers meet for the third time in the national title game and fourth time in the playoff with the Tide holding a 2-1 advantage. They’ll square off a week from today at 7 PM CT in Santa Clara, California 45 miles south of San Francisco on ESPN in the CFB National Championship game.
It’ll be the great Tua versus a super freshman quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. The offensive and defensive lines on both sides could determine this outcome, as the Clemson o line will be tested by the rugged Alabama front and the Alabama o line will be tested by an equally solid Clemson front line on defense. It could ultimately come down to quarterback play though as it does many times. Tua does have the experience of a national championship game and it was a memorable one as he lead his team back from a 13-0 deficit and threw a game winning 45 yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime to catapult the Tide over Georgia 26-23 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium last January. But Lawrence plays like a redshirt senior. I’ve never seen a quarterback so accurate throwing off his back foot. That’s not how they teach it, but he can throw it using the right form and he can hum it using the wrong form. The guy’s a stud, too. The secondaries for both teams will be tested mightily and rushing the passer for both teams will be at a premium. The difference between Lawrence and Kyler Murray is Lawrence has pretty average running ability. He can run a little bit, but he’s not exceptional. He’s OK with his legs. Tua can run if necessary and is a better runner than Lawrence. The weather in Cali will be probably mid 60’s to low 60’s at game time so fatigue won’t play a role like it did in the Orange Bowl. Chasing Kyler Murray in 84 temperature that feels in the 90’s is no picnic. But Lawrence has a pretty quick delivery and excellent receivers so Deointe Thompson and the secondary will be tested. Alabama will certainly test the Clemson secondary with Tua’s arsenal on the perimeter, DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle. And the Crimson Tide has the better backup quarterback option if Tua gets hurt. My wife said that God is on Jalen’s side for all he’s persevered through in the last year, so if Jalen is called upon, he can deliver. Clemson has Chase Brice and he’s not bad either. He led Clemson to the game winning touchdown against Syracuse completing a 4th and 6 pass that if he didn’t complete would have cost Clemson the game. So he’s pretty good as well.
Alabama has a slight edge in turnover margin at No.21 in the country while Clemson is 43. Bama has 14 interceptions on the season and Clemson has 10. Bama has recovered 7 fumbles and Clemson has 11. Alabama has lost the ball 13 times and Clemson has lost it 16. Winning the turnover battle is always critical, but there are a lot of other factors in this game also as mentioned above.
Will be a thriller on the left coast next Monday Night
Here are predictions for today’s bowl games. 6 on tap.
Cincinnati (10-2) vs Virginia Tech (6-6)
Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD. 34,000
11 AM CT
Mike Corey, Rene Ingoglia, Alex Corddry
Refs, Mountain West, Kevin Hassell
Cincy by 6 1/2
I don’t know why, but I always trust VA. Tech in toss up games, even though Cincy is a pretty clear favorite here. The way Duke smashed Temple, 56-27, in the Independence Bowl, a Temple team that finished 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the American in the regular season, and that VA. Tech defeated Duke, 31-14, at Duke in the regular season, makes me believe in the Hokies here.
VA Tech 28, Cincinnati 27
Stanford (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (7-6)
Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX. 51,500
1 PM CT
Brad, Gary, Jamie
Refs, SEC, David Smith
Stanford by 4
Pitt is another ACC team I like to upset a Stanford team that will be without star running back Bryce Love who is sitting out. Love wasn’t that great this year anyway running for 739 yards and only 6 TDs. So I like the Panthers here.
Pitt 28, Stanford 24
Michigan State (7-5) vs. Oregon (8-4)
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA., 68,500
2 PM CT
Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Bruce Feldman
Refs, Big 12, Reggie Smith
Oregon by 1 1/2
I like the Ducks to prevail here, though it’ll be close.
Oregon 30, Michigan State 28
No. 23 Missouri (8-4) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, 61,008
2:45 PM CT
Clay Matvick, Dan Orlovsky, Paul Carcaterra
Refs, BIG 10 , Jerry McGinn
Missouri by 9
I’m going with Drew Lock and the Tigers here in what will be a shootout.
Missouri 38, Oklahoma State 35
No. 22 Northwestern (8-5) vs. No. 17 Utah (9-4)
SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, 70,561
6 PM CT
Fox Sports 1
Gus, Joel, Jenny
Utah by 7
Refs, Big 12, Brandon Cruse
Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham is 11-1 in bowls in his 15 years at the helm in Salt Lake City. I like him to add to that impeccable record.
Utah 28, Northwestern 20
NC State (9-3) vs. No. 19 Texas A&M (8-4)
TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL. 67,164
6:30 PM CT
Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich
Refs, Pac-12, Mark Duddy
A&M by 7
I like Jimbo and the Aggies to get the job done and with the 3rd best recruiting class in 2019 behind Bama and Georgia, look for even bigger things next year and beyond that.