CFP National Championship Preview: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson

Story posted January 4, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Andre Magaro

The stage is set for the College Football Playoff national championship game. This Monday, familiar foes will face off in the Bay Area as the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide take on the No. 2 Clemson Tigers. The game will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Kickoff is scheduled for around 8 p.m. EST, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

For the first time in the playoff era, the championship game will be a matchup of two undefeated teams. It is not a surprise in the slightest that these two programs, who have essentially dominated the playoff era, are the first to accomplish this feat. Nor is it a shock that they are meeting for the fourth time in as many seasons for at least a shot at the title.

This season, Alabama looks to win back-to-back championships to continue its latest dynasty. Clemson looks to avenge last season’s loss to the Crimson Tide en route to just its third national title in school history.

Alabama comes into the contest with arguably its best squad in the school’s remarkable football history. The Crimson Tide rank fourth nationally in total offense. They are led by sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is having a simply dominant season. This season, Tagovailoa has posted a 69.5 completion percentage, while accumulating 3,671 yards and 41 touchdowns through the air, with just four interceptions, which rank him as easily the most efficient and effective passer in the FBS.

Tagovailoa also has a variety of talented receivers and backs at his disposal. Sophomore Jerry Jeudy won this season’s Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top receiver. Him and Tagovailoa have connected for 1,176 yards and 13 touchdowns. Expect the Alabama QB to look for Jeudy as his go-to target for deep throws down the field to stifle the Clemson defense. If Jeudy is having an off night, there are plenty of other capable targets, such as sophomore Henry Ruggs III and freshman Jalen Waddle. In the backfield, look for a steady diet of senior Damien Harris and junior Josh Jacobs to support Alabama’s passing attack

The Crimson Tide are not just an offensive powerhouse, they also enter their seventh national title game under Saban with the 13th-ranked defense in the FBS. This is impressive considering the Crimson Tide have gone up against four offenses ranked in the top 20 this season, including the record-setting and top-ranked unit at Oklahoma. Senior Isaiah Buggs will look to lead the Alabama pass rush. Meanwhile, junior Saivion Smith will need to lead the secondary against Clemson’s prolific passing attack.

Don’t look now, but statistically, Clemson is arguably having a more impressive season than the opposing Alabama squad. The Tigers are the only team to rank in the top three in both total defense and offense in the FBS. However, the Tigers face what is easily their toughest test of the season Monday night.

The Clemson offense likes to establish a strong rushing game with sophomore running back Travis Etienne. While Etienne’s body of work is impressive, he has struggled from time-to-time. Still, he is always capable of a breakout play, so look for Clemson to keep faith in Etienne even if Alabama shuts the back down early.

However, the primary threat posed by the Clemson offense is in the passing game. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has delivered since filling the starting role for the Tigers, passing for 2,933 yards and 27 touchdowns. Lawrence looks to become the first freshman quarterback to start and win the College Football Playoff national championship game.

A popular target for Lawrence will likely be senior Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow has been a nightmare in the last two championship game clashes with Alabama and looks to be an x-factor once again. Sophomore Tee Higgins is also a dangerous deep threat to watch out for, leading the Tigers with 11 touchdown receptions.

In a matchup of two complete teams on both sides of the ball, the deciding factors will likely be discipline, and who is not on the field. Alabama was uncharacteristically flagged for five motion and personal foul penalties in its last game. The Crimson Tide keeping their head will be an important factor, especially for a team who has struggled in the kicking game all season.

It is currently unknown if Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence will be eligible for the title game after being suspended for the Tigers’ semifinal game. While it didn’t cost Clemson in a dominating win against Notre Dame, Alabama is a totally different animal compared to anything the Tigers have faced all season. Not having their star pass rusher could be the difference from being national champions or bowing out to Alabama once again.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 28

 

 

Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email ajm7362@psu.edu.