Forgive the headline if it sounds repetitive because well, the game is quite repetitive. However, this is a different game in a different year with different players. So should we be excited about Alabama versus Clemson, again? Heck yeah, we should. Here is why along with a breakdown of the game, series history and much more.
Alabama versus Clemson, again
First, let’s take a look at the history between these two programs. The National Championship Game will be the 19th total meeting between Alabama and Clemson with Bama holding a 14-4 advantage overall in the series.
As everyone knows, this will be the fourth straight season that we will see Alabama versus Clemson in the College Football Playoff. Bama held off Deshaun Watson and company 45-40 in an epic national title matchup to cap off the 2015 season while Watson and Clemson got revenge 35-31 the following season. Last year, Alabama dominated the Tigers 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl semifinal.
Additionally, the 2016 National Championship Game victory was the first win for Clemson over Alabama since 1905.
How they got here
Before we get into each team’s breakdowns etc, it should be pointed out that it is quite obvious how these teams have gotten to this point so often in recent years. Alabama and Clemson do the following things better than everyone else. Ready? Here goes. This is quite profound. Everything. They have literally done everything better than everyone else. Okay, with that said, let’s get a bit more granular than that.
These teams have simply recruited on another level and built depth throughout their rosters that is almost unprecedented. The size, speed, and athleticism that these teams display are quite dazzling. Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are two entirely different personalities, proving that there is no one specific formula that works better than another. Both are process oriented coaches, however, Saban rules with an iron fist and extreme teaching while Swinney coaches through love and faith, which allows his teaching to be authentic.
Another very important key that often gets overlooked and is why we are seeing Alabama versus Clemson again on this stage is this. The strength and conditioning programs that the Tide and Tigers both run are on another level. This is an important factor for many reasons. Obviously, teams have to be able to last an entire game while wearing your opponent down. However this is important because it reduces injuries. Ever notice that while these teams have injuries every now and then, they have nowhere near the amount as many other programs? Very rarely do these teams have a major player go out due to injury and that can be attributed to the strength and conditioning programs.
The lowdown on Alabama
The Tide are simply loaded at every position. Specific to the offense, they have a star on every level. Obviously, you have Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, Damien Harris at running back along with dynamic receivers Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and more. Plus, the offensive line is loaded. No wonder the offense ranks fifth in the country, right behind Clemson, at 527.6 yards per game. After defeating Oklahoma 45-34, Bama ranks second just behind the Sooners in points per game at 47.7.
Is there a weakness with the offense? Hard to find one. They have only allowed 14 sacks in 14 games. Additionally, Alabama only has 13 turnovers in 14 games. They are second nationally in third-down conversions. Bama scores a touchdown nearly 71 percent of the time in the red zone, which ranks 21st nationally. Bama also has 19 plays of over 50 yards, which is two behind Clemson for first and one behind OU for second place.
Defensively, Alabama was clearly not tested until they played Georgia in the SEC title game and Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Georgia played extremely well against the Tide while OU took some time, but eventually figured things out. However, the unit is definitely stacked led by stud players like defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, linebackers Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson along with safety Deionte Thompson.
Bama now ranks 12th in the country in total defense per game, allowing 307.9 yards per game. The scoring defense has dipped to seventh nationally after the last two games. However, they are still only allowing 16.2 points per game for the season. Alabama’s rushing defense ranks 20th overall while the passing defense ranks 23rd. Still a strong unit, clearly, but maybe not as strong as others that they have had previously.
Additionally, Alabama has registered 45 sacks, which is tied for fourth overall. Clemson ranks first by the way with 52. More on that later. Bama has also accumulated 101 tackles for loss in 14 games. Plus, they are getting one interception per game while recovering just seven fumbles this season. Another interesting note is that they have only allowed four plays of over 50 years this season. Only 14 teams allowed three or fewer.
The lowdown on Clemson
Led by dynamic freshman quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, Clemson ranks fourth nationally in yards per game at 530.4. The Tide are loaded, but so are the Tigers with star running back Travis Etienne along with Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice. Additionally, wide receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Justyn Ross and future Patriot Hunter Renfrow give them a deep and super talented group for Lawrence to work with. Clemson ranks fourth in scoring at 44.3 points per game as well.
Additionally, Clemson has one of the best offensive lines in the country led by consensus All-American Mitch Hyatt. In fact, they have only allowed 17 sacks in 14 games this season. They do not turn the ball over much having only committed 17 turnovers so far. The Tigers are solid on third-down conversions at 44.39 percent this season, which ranks 26th. Another fun fact is they lead the country in 50 plus yard plays at 21 overall. Also, they are among the best in red zone scoring, getting a touchdown 76.81 percent of the time. That ranks fifth in the country.
The Tigers defense ranks second overall allowing just 274.6 yards per game. Additionally, their scoring defense ranks second behind Mississippi State at 12.9 points a game. Teams simply cannot run the ball against that defensive front of Clemson as they only give up 92.57 yards on the ground per game. The secondary led by players such as Trayvon Mullen, AJ Terrell,
Undoubtedly, the majority of the talk surrounding Clemson is around their defensive line, and for darn good reason. It must be noted that as of this time, it is unclear whether Dexter Lawrence will be able to play in the game or not. However, the defense led by Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, and Austin Bryant has combined for a whopping 52 sacks this year, which leads the country. What gets lost is how good the backups on the line are as well. Also, the Tigers have registered 129 tackles for loss, good for second behind Miami (FL).
Additionally, Clemson is sixth in opponent third-down conversions, allowing teams to convert just 28.32 percent of the time. They are equally impressive on fourth down, holding teams to a 31.82 conversion rate. Want more? How about in the red zone? The Tigers are 13th overall in opponents scoring percentage in the red zone. If you want to find a potential weakness, it’s that they do allow big plays occasionally. They have allowed six plays of 50 yards plus, four plays of 60 yards plus along with two plays of 70 yards plus.
Three keys to the game for each team
The first key will be how freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence handles the atmosphere and brevity of the situation against Alabama. He handled himself quite well against Notre Dame, but this is still a different stage. If he plays well, the offense should be able to move the ball as long as they take a balanced approach and stick to the run game.
Secondly, if Clemson’s defensive line does what they do, they can get pressure on Tua. However, players like Kendall Joseph and company in the middle of the defense will have to spy and watch the middle of the field. Additionally, they have to control the run game, which is always a key against Alabama.
Thirdly, Clemson has a tendency to give up big plays once in a while, which is concerning against this Bama offense. The secondary will have to keep everything in front of them, but the safety play is going to be the key to the game for Clemson. Also, how they mix coverages will be key as they need to confuse Tua as much as possible.
First, the offensive line has to play it’s
Secondly, Alabama has to exploit the holes in the secondary, which will allow for big plays. Alabama is known for gaining big plays while Clemson, as mentioned before, has given several up this season
Thirdly the Tide defense has shown some holes against Georgia and Oklahoma. The secondary will be the key to the defense. If Clemson’s talented and fast receivers get behind the secondary, it will be a touchdown. Look for Clemson to try and expose Bama there.
Stage is set
Alabama versus Clemson for the 2018 season National Championship is set to be another epic battle. Certainly, you have two dynamic offenses along with two great defenses. Neither team has many, or any, obvious weaknesses. Both teams generate sacks, protect their quarterbacks and have dynamic play-makers all over the field, including their quarterbacks.
Clemson wins a shootout by a score of 38-34.
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