This one is for all of the marbles. On Monday night, the number 2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) travel to Levi’s Stadium to take on the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0). It will also be the tiebreaker. This will be the third time that these teams have met in the last four national championships and they have each won one. Three years ago it was Alabama topping Clemson. Two years ago it was the reverse. For Clemson, they are coming off of a convincing 30-3 win over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl to get here. Their undefeated season also included wins over ranked teams like Syracuse and Texas A&M. For Alabama, who also won the national championship last year over Georgia, they beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to make it here. Throughout their undefeated regular season, they beat ranked opponents MS State, LSU, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M. Kickoff for the national championship game is scheduled for 8:00 pm ET.
The point spread for this one comes in with the Alabama Crimson Tide being 5.5-point favorites. The over/under on total points scored is set at 58 points.
By The Numbers
Let’s just say that there is a reason these two teams are undefeated. Both rank amongst the top in most offensive and defensive categories. In terms of total offense, Clemson ranks 3rd at 530.4 yards per game while Alabama ranks 4th at 527.6. To break it down more, Alabama ranks 6th in the nation in passing offense (325.6 yards per game) while Clemson is 24th (274.1 yards). On the ground, it was Clemson with the advantage. They rank 10th in the nation, averaging 256.3 yards per game, while Alabama is 34th, averaging 202 yards. In terms of scoring, though, Alabama ranks ahead of Clemson as they rank 2nd, averaging 47.7 points per game. Clemson comes in at 4th, scoring 44.3 points per game.
As great as those numbers are, they might be better on defense. Clemson ranks 2nd in total defense, allowing just 274.6 yards per game to opposing offenses while Alabama ranks 13th, allowing 307.9 yards. In terms of points allowed, they are both top-5. Alabama ranks 5th in the nation, allowing just 16.2 points per game, while Clemson ranks 1st, allowing a paltry 12.9 points.
Clemson Trying To Upset Top-Ranked Alabama
Ever since Trevor Lawrence took over under center in week 4, the Tigers have been dynamic on offense. On the season, he has thrown for 2,933 yards, 27 touchdowns versus just 4 interceptions. He has also rushed 54 times for 157 yards and another touchdown. His leading receivers include Tee Higgins (56 catches, 855 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Justyn Ross (40 catches, 847 yards, 8 touchdowns).
On the ground, Travis Etienne has been sensational. He has rushed for 1,573 yards and a whopping 22 touchdowns on 190 carries. He also has 11 receptions out of the backfield for 73 yards and another touchdown. Aside from Etienne, Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice, and Lyn-J Dixon have each rushed for over 400 yards and 5 or more touchdowns.
Defensively, the Tigers will be without one of their best defensive linemen as Dexter Lawrence was suspended due to testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Still, Clemson has a roster full of NFL-caliber talent that will make life tough on Alabama. Isaiah Simmons leads the team in tackles with 79, while Clelin Ferrell leads the team in sacks (11.5) and both Tanner Muse and AJ Terrell lead the team in interceptions (2 apiece).
Alabama Looking For 2ndTitle In A Row
Nick Saban has had a lot of talented teams over the years, but this may be one of his best, on both sides of the ball. Under center, he has one of the best in Tua Tagovailoa. This season he threw for 3,671 yards, 41 touchdowns versus just 4 interceptions. He also rushed 53 times for 199 yards and another 5 touchdowns. His leading receivers this year were Jerry Jeudy (63 catches, 1,176 yards, 13 touchdowns), Henry Ruggs III (45 catches, 738 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Jaylen Waddle (43 catches, 823 yards, 7 touchdowns).
On the ground, the Crimson Tide have three players that have rushed for over 500 yards. Joshua Jacobs has 593 yards and 11 touchdowns on 109 carries, Najee Harris has 724 yards and 4 touchdowns on 108 carries, and Damien Harris has 819 yards and 9 touchdowns on 139 carries.
Defensively, the stat leaders for Alabama’s vaunted defense include Dylan Moses (82 tackles), Isaiah Buggs (9.5 sacks) and Saivion Smith with 3 interceptions.
Alabama Just Too Much
It is without a doubt that both of these teams are stellar on both sides of the ball. Heck, their average margin of victory was virtually the same (31.5 for Alabama and 31.4 for Clemson). I just feel like Alabama is a little more battle-tested. It is not just because Alabama faced a tougher schedule (ranked 5thof the top-10 teams compared to Clemson whose was ranked as the easiest), it is the leadership. Alabama has not just one, but two quarterbacks that have played in a national championship game (don’t forget about Jalen Hurts). For Clemson, they are relying on a freshman, no matter how talented he may be, to get them a victory. Clemson is also without one of their best defensive players in Dexter Lawrence. It should be a good matchup, and I imagine it will be close for a good duration, but ultimately, for my money, I have to go with Nick Saban and Alabama, despite giving up the 5.5 points.