Teams & Conferences

Mitchell: Clemson? Only An Idiot Picks Against Alabama, Right?

College Football Playoff National Championship: Can Clemson Beat Alabama?


Can Clemson come up with a big offensive performance to beat a fantastic Alabama defense for the College Football Playoff National Championship?


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Look everyone! It’s Clemson. Back from early season distractions to embarrass The Ohio State Buckeyes along the way to Tampa and an appearance in back-to-back Championships.  But the Tigers want more than just an appearance.

They want blood.

Crimson blood.

RUNNING RED

Sleep with one eye open, Bama, say the fans from the Palmetto state.  After watching Clemson’s defense undress a heralded OSU rushing attack, it’s hard to discount that warning.

If not for Curtis Samuel’s 64-yard scamper in garbage time, the fabled Buckeyes would have finished that semifinal in the desert with 24 yards on 22 carries.  Lions and Tigers and Bears, indeed.

Also, we’ll stop you here – it’s not that Meyer and Co. didn’t give the run enough chances. They simply COULDN’T run the ball, and the game ultimately dictated passing as they fell further and further behind.

“But our rushing offense is exponentially superior to OSU’s,” chirp the rabid Tide faithful.  “Look at the quality of the opposing run defenses we’ve faced.”

Okay …

If you look even deeper, the Tide’s scoring offense was also quite similar to OSU’s.  The Buckeyes finished the year ranked 14 in the nation with an offense notching 39.4 points per game.  Bama?

39.4.

After toweling off that double splash of reality, here’s some good news for the Tide: it’s offensive line scheme isn’t that different from Pitt, who handed the Tigers their only loss. By a single point, yes Tigers fans, but averaging nearly five yards a carry in the process. Remember that number.

Moreover, the Buckeyes don’t have a tailback in the pounding, soul-snatching form of the now healthy Bo Scarbrough, who ripped UW for 180 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries.

That was a Washington run defense equal to Clemson’s … before New Years Eve, that is.

REVENGE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Then there’s the X factor.  Specifically, that Bama’s defense has been waiting for a year to avenge it’s spotty championship performance. After the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban called that effort “a loss” … as only Saban can while hoisting another sparkling trophy.

Fine. But outside of Columbia, the entire state of South Carolina has been gagging for this chance.

If not for a beautifully timed and executed onside kick, it’s possible – not likely, but quite possible – it would have been Clemson and Dabo lifting the trophy in 2016.

So it’s great that Bama’s D want’s another shot at the brass ring, but Clemson’s program has been waiting 363 days for this.  From the admin staff on up.

Yet as anyone who has pined for a paramour can attest, waiting is a bitch.  And getting what you want isn’t always a good thing.  In this case, the Clemson Tigers have earned a shot at the 2016 Alabama defense. … the best Saban defense I’ve ever seen.

Better than 2012.  Better than the 2009 squad that beat Texas, or the 2003 LSU team that stymied OU.

It’s a more complete defense than even the 2011 team, certainly in terms of putting pressure on quarterbacks.  The Tide ranked 29 nationally in sacks in ’11, while this season they find themselves second best.

DUAL-THREAT DUMMIES

If there’s kryptonite for a Saban defense, though, it’s a dual-threat quarterback.  Despite the relative strides Bama has made in this regard, since the 2014 Iron Bowl the Tide defense has surrendered on average about 5 yard per carry and 300 yards/two touchdowns to each dual threat QB they’ve faced.

And here comes one of the best in football in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.

So who’s going to win?

Until Clemson beats Bama, the Tigers are the little brother.  Period.

It’s not like Alabama’s afraid of Tigers.  They’ve dominated their rivalry with Auburn, winning three straight, and five of their last six.  They’ve crushed their rivalry with LSU, booking six straight, among them an embarrassing shutout in the 2011 BCS National Championship.

Clemson’s good, to be sure.  But ultimately they’re just another group of tigers to Bama, and this is just another championship game.

We’ll take Bama’s defense in a knife fight, which is what we’re getting Monday.  Even against that aggressive, fast defense, Watson will have a good day.

But Alabama will average about five yards per carry, which will be the difference.

Tide by six.

It might not rhyme, but it’ll be another shiny trophy for Saban’s bookcase.