College Football Playoff National Championship First Look: 5 Alabama vs. Clemson Storylines, Prediction

    the first look, thoughts, prediction, and five storylines on the College Football Playoff national championship between Alabama vs. Clemson

    January 1, 2016

    The national title game is set with Alabama taking on Clemson. What’s going to happen?

    Alabama vs. Clemson
    2016 College Football Playoff National Championship First Look

    No one wants to admit it, and everyone is going to want to try to find something to hold on to, but there’s a harsh reality possibly in play here.

    This game probably isn’t going to be any good.

    At least that’ll be the thought. Just like there was no way Ohio State was going to stay with Oregon in the inaugural title game.

    Clemson keeps getting disrespected – hand raised – and it keeps on winning. After the dominant performance against Oklahoma’s offense, there’s no more ripping on the Tigers coming up with a one-win season, and that victory turning into a fight against Notre Dame at the end.

    Oklahoma was the real deal with a high-powered offense that went through the Big 12 wars, but the pro-Clemson side was right – Oklahoma didn’t face a whole slew of top defenses.

    It dealt with the Tennessee D, and it struggled until late. Texas cranked up the intensity, and the OU attack shut down. Clemson lost star DE Shaq Lawson early, and it didn’t matter.

    But the Oklahoma offense had a lot do with the Clemson defense’s success.

    When the hurry-up, tempo attack doesn’t work, it goes three-and-out in a hurry, the defense has to come back on the field, Clemson’s offense took advantage with long drives, the Clemson defense got to rest and was more rested and looked far fresher in the second half in a hot stadium, and there you go.

    That’s no disrespecting the Tigers in any way since it was their defense that stopped the Oklahoma offense in the first place. Alabama, though, is going to take its time.

    Both teams dominated their respective College Football Playoff games, but Alabama’s smashing of Michigan State was a little scarier. That was a head-strong, veteran Spartan team that looked like it might as well have been Eastern Michigan.

    So should Clemson even show up? Is there any reason to even play this game? Here are the five key storylines everyone will be talking about over the next several days.

    1. Alabama can’t handle mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks

    Johnny Manziel destroyed Alabama two years in a row in while shootouts, and Auburn’s Nick Marshall got the job done in 2013, but that’s sort of it. Deshaun Watson isn’t just some normal quarterback, and he’s certainly in the Manziel and Marshall class, but this is a different Alabama defense now.

    The Crimson Tide have a better front three than it had against Manziel and Marshall. And again, that’s it. Other than Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly – and that was a strange game in a lot of ways – one else has come even remotely close to rolling on this D.

    Watson is fantastic, but Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is pretty good, too, and while he threw for 300 yards against Alabama, it was an ineffective 300 yards in the blowout loss.

    2. The disrespect card for Clemson

    All Clemson has done is go 14-0, rock Big 12 champion Oklahoma, beat Notre Dame, get through the ACC season unscathed, and earned the No. 1 spot in the rankings throughout, and by the time the line is settled at game-time, it’ll probably be a double-digit dog. Not like the Tigers care about that a lick, but they talked about not being respected enough all Orange Bowl week, and they played with a serious attitude that didn’t go away. Dabo Swinney can tell his team that “no one believes in us,” because it’s true.

    3. The Clemson pass rush

    Michigan State has a pass rush, and it didn’t matter in any way against Alabama’s Jake Coker. Clemson has a pass rush with or without Shaq Lawson, and it’s going to have to try doing what Michigan State did, only better.

    Lost in the post-game discussion was that Michigan State’s defense had the right gameplan, but Alabama executed better. Load up to stop the Alabama ground game – and MSU did that relatively well – but Coker came through. The Clemson secondary is better than Michigan State’s.

    4. Nick Saban’s legacy

    It could be argued that Saban’s era is already even more impressive the Bear Bryant’s if you factor in the era, the rules, and the schedules and teams to deal with, but a fifth national title? That would put Saban among the true gods, and then you’re really starting to talk Greatest of All-Time category if, again, you’re factoring in eras. He has the better team, and he has more talent on his side, so if Clemson wins and Dabo Swinney pulls it off, then it becomes more about the young Tiger head man. He wouldn’t just be a national title-winning coach; he’d be the guy who beat Nick Saban in a national championship. That doesn’t happen.

    5. Can the Clemson running game work?

    Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman combined for almost 300 yards against Oklahoma, but now they’re dealing with a whole other animal. Alabama made Leonard Fournette look silly, stuffed Michigan State’s ground attack, and crushed everyone else, but now it’s dealing with the deadliest 1-2 punch it faced all season long. Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd are good, but Clemson’s twosome is at a whole other level. Clemson will have to run the ball to win – Alabama has allowed more than 100 yards just twice all season to Georgia and Tennessee. Clemson has to crank up at least 200, and it’s going to have to be truly special to do that.

    This could change – I picked Oregon coming out of the Rose Bowl last year, and then screamed and yelled that Ohio State was the Lock of the Century after a few days in Dallas. However, the first-thought, knee-jerk reaction?

    Alabama is only giving up seven? Wow. That’s going to change in a big way very soon.

    Early Prediction: Alabama 37, Clemson 14, Line: Alabama -7, o/u: 53.5


    Have the full Stadium experience

    Watch with friends

    Get rewards

    Join the discussion