Alabama vs. Clemson: 5 Key College Football Playoff National Championship Matchups

    Alabama vs. Clemson: 5 Key College Football Playoff National Championship Matchups The biggest head-to-head showdowns to watch.

    January 6, 2016

    Five key Alabama vs. Clemson matchups. The biggest head-to-head showdowns to watch in the College Football Playoff national championships game.

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello |
    Follow me … @RichCirminiello

    Clemson and Alabama go head-to-head Monday night to determine this season’s national champion. Since the teams are evenly matched, it’ll be the games-within-the-game that’ll eventually dictate a winner. These five pairings will be so good and so significant that they’ll warrant their own separate TV crew to follow their every move.

    5. LT Mitch Hyatt (Clemson) vs. DE Jonathan Allen (Alabama)

    Hyatt has been the poster child—emphasis going on child—of the Tiger O-line’s improbable rise from preseason question mark to in-season strength.

    Clemson has muscled its way past expectations at the point of attack, with its talented true freshman manning the edge. But Hyatt, who was dinged early on, is coming off a so-so Orange Bowl, and Bama presents his toughest test of the year.

    Allen is the Tide’s most explosive rusher off the edge, with the range and the lateral quickness to flush Deshaun Watson from the pocket. Allen tormented Connor Cook last week and provides a complementary flash to bigger linemates A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed.

    4. LT Cam Robinson (Alabama) vs. DE Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

    Watson has the footwork and agility to escape pressure when his protection breaks down. Bama QB Jacob Coker, though, is a far more stationary target.

    The quarterbacks must be afforded time, especially Coker, who’s rushed for 944 fewer yards than Watson through 14 games. And whether or not DE Shaq Lawson’s knee is 100%, Clemson is going to bring the heat from the first two levels of the D. Dodd has played his way into the NFL Draft in 2015 by collecting 79 tackles, 18.5 stops for loss and nine sacks. However, standing in his way this week is Robinson, an All-SEC pick who shut down Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun last Thursday.

    3. MLB B.J. Goodson (Clemson) vs. RB Derrick Henry (Alabama)

    Few have successfully slowed down Henry, who broke the 2,000-yard threshold last week. If Clemson is to be an exception, it’ll need a monster game from Goodson in the middle.

    The Tigers are rugged and underrated at linebacker, led by Goodson and Ben Boulware who possess good size and strength to go along with the ability to make plays going downhill. When Goodson and Henry butt heads, it’ll be 250 pounds hitting 242 pounds, respectively, a collision of power punchers. The keys for Goodson and Boulware will be to diagnose, get to the hole quickly and wrap up in space. Sounds simple enough until defenders begin bouncing off No. 2 in demoralizing fashion.

    2. CB Mackensie Alexander (Clemson) vs. WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama)

    In terms of true head-to-head, mano-a-mano matchups, this should be the most compelling one of the night.

    Bama’s going to need something from the passing attack to beat the Clemson D. And Ridley is the centerpiece of the aerial attack, playing like the second coming of Amari Cooper in his debut out of Monarch (Fla.) High School. He was dynamite in the semifinal game with Michigan State, making eight grabs for 138 yards and two scores. Going stride-for-stride with Ridley, though, will be Alexander, who hasn’t given up a touchdown pass this season. And if Ridley is neutralized, the Tide has no one else who can lengthen the defense.

    1. MLB Reggie Ragland (Alabama) vs. QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

    It’s been well-documented that five of Bama’s last six losses were to team’s with athletic quarterbacks. And since Watson is one of just three FBS QBs with at least 1,000 yards on the ground in 2015, Ragland will need to know where he is at all times.

    The problem in defending Watson is that he can beat you in so many different ways. It’s going to be fascinating to see how he fares against the Bama front seven, which is littered with next-level linemen and linebackers. At 252 pounds, Ragland is more of a thumper than a sideline-to-sideline stalker, so he’ll need to make Watson pay for leaving the pocket. If the Tide can hammer Watson, a slender 210-pounder, he’ll be gun-shy and uneasy about leaving the pocket after enduring a few hits from Ragland and his mates.

    MORE: Alabama vs. Clemson Predicition, Championship Game Preview


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