Written by Brett Korpi
Welcome to the sixth and final installment of our series of previews leading up to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Which, is the much-hyped rematch between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson. Today we will offer our analysis and prediction.
When the final whistle is blown, and the confetti drops history will be made at the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Dabo Swinney could raise his first national championship trophy as a head coach. Moreover, the Clemson Tigers first since 1981. Alabama head coach Nick Saban could tie the legendary Bear Bryant for most title victories by a head coach.
There are several factors on the field that will decide what coach is standing on the podium. Let’s take a look the keys to victory for each team:
Quarterback Deshaun Watson showed in last year’s loss to the Crimson Tide, that he could torch the vaunted defense. However, throughout the year he has shown a propensity to turn the ball over. When he faces Alabama’s top-ranked scoring defense in the country, it will be critical to the Tigers success that Watson can protect the football.
For the Tigers defense, they showed that they have the ability to shut down elite teams, with their shutout victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. They will need to be able to shut down Alabama running back Bo Scarborough in order to have a chance to win. That will force true-freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts to try to beat them through the air, where the Tigers have been ball-hawks, intercepting 20 passes this season.
Alabama’s number one ranked defense in the country will have to find a way to make Watson uneasy in the pocket. The one weakness in the Tide defense is that when it gets beat, it is usually deep. That could be a real problem against Watson. If they can force him off his game early, they can weather the storm when the Tigers score. If so, it will be a good night for the Tide.
With Steve Sarkisian sliding into the offensive coordinator role after the departure of Lane Kiffin, comes a little bit of uncertainty. While it will be the same scheme the Tide have been running all year, look for Sarkisian to increase the tempo, which, as Pittsburgh has shown earlier this season, could be a recipe for success against the Tigers.
Expect the rematch to live up to the hype early as both teams trade scores and turnovers. In the end, it will be Clemson’s experience against the Tide on the big stage that will calm their nerves late. The Tigers will overwhelm Hurts and Watson will shine in his final moments as a Tiger. Clemson will bring a National Championship home to South Carolina, for their first title in 35 years. Clemson 38 Alabama 24
The College Football Playoff National Championship will be played on Monday, January 9th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Check back tomorrow for our final game preview and prediction.