National Championship Preview

Dale Money | January 7th, 2019

Monday night’s National Championship game, which will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, will feature powerhouses Alabama and Clemson for the third time in four years. Nick Saban will be looking to overtake Bear Bryant with the seventh title of his career. As for Clemson, they have not been back to the National Championship since Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to a National Title win against Alabama, back in 2017.

Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0, 8-0 in SEC)

Strengths – In what will be the first-ever meeting between Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence. Tagovailoa will come into this game, playing on a surgically repaired left ankle. It hasn’t seemed to hold him back. He just threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns on a nearly perfect 24-of-27 passing performance in the playoff semifinal against Oklahoma.

If this offense can start off fast with that uptempo style of theirs, it will put Clemson into a rare situation of having to overcome a deficit. Tagovailoa will have his number one receiving option in Jerry Jeudy ready to roll. Jeudy put up 1,176 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. The depth is there at the position, as five players had at least 36 receptions this season.

The group of Jonah Williams, Lester Cotton, Ross Pierschbacher, Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills represent a deep offensive line core. Having surrendered only 14 sacks and 58 tackles for loss this season. They’re running attack is led by Damien Harris and Najee Harris, who combined for over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Weaknesses – Its hard to find any true weaknesses on this Alabama club. However, if we want to get picky, the secondary is an area that could be the most open to attack. There’s talent there with guys like Deionte Thompson and Patrick Surtain II, but it’s not the same caliber unit that we’ve seen the past three years.

Bama ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed, 42nd in touchdowns, and 21st in interceptions. For most teams, those would be rather respectable numbers. In the national semifinal game against Oklahoma, QB Kyler Murray and receiver CeeDee Lamb were able to burn Surtain II for 109 yards along with a touchdown on 8 receptions. The holes are there for Trevor Lawrence to exploit.

The only other area has been place-kicking. Joseph Bulovas made 13 of 17 field goals, which ranked him tied for 9th in the SEC,. His percentage on extra points is rated dead last in the SEC among Kickers.

Clemson Tigers (14-0, 8-0 in ACC)

Strengths – Trevor Lawrence may not be as slippery as Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, but he has thrown for 2,933 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just four interceptions since taking over as the starter in late September. Lawrence and that Tiger offense can certainly stretch the field, and they’ll be attacking Alabama’s secondary with its speed and athleticism on the outside. Wide receivers Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, and Amari Rogers each have over 500 yards receiving and at least four touchdowns.

Don’t overlook Travis Etienne, who has been the true offensive backbone of this team, even though you don’t hear nearly as much about him. Rushing for 1,572 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground.  He isn’t going to find a ton of running room. Although given the extra attention Alabama will need to devote to the backend of the defense, Etienne should get more opportunities to gain positive plays.

The Tigers have a defense that many would argue boasts the best defensive line in Clemson history. This unit is led by Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, and Austin Bryant. Every single one of those players is expected to be NFL bound.

They will, unfortunately, be without Dexter Lawrence for a second straight game after he tested positive for a banned substance. Senior Albert Huggins will fill his spot again after replacing Lawrence against Notre Dame.

Weaknesses – The Tigers’ defense ranks 18th in passing yards allowed per game with 183.3. They are, however, tied for 71st most in interceptions and tied for 62nd most in pass deflections. Clemson’s two performances against Texas A&M and South Carolina are much worse than anything Alabama has allowed this year. Both of those two opposing quarterbacks put up over 400 yards through the air.

Again, just like Alabama, Clemson does have problems with their special teams. Greg Huegel is 11 of 17 on field goal attempts which is tied for 8th in the ACC. The punting game is abysmal to be kind with an average of 39.5 yards per punt. Ranking Will Spiers  135th in the country.

Predictions from the Scorecrow family:

Alabama Wins:

Mike @Mikesports22 –  34-31
Andrew @DHH_Mandrew – 45-42
Beth @GApeachpolymer – 51-48
Jordan @JordanLeandre55 – 38-34
Troy @Stonedlakerfan – 35-21
Matt @AresgodFF – 38-31
David @BayAreaSports – 34-13
Pranav @PranavRama1 – 31-21
Frank @Fantasy_Giant – 38-27

Clemson Wins:

Nick @Nick_popio21 – 30-27
Chris @rmdest – 24-17
Dale @Packerd_00 – 28-21
Matt B @Bishphat – 38-35
Dan @Corrigan_Tweets – 45-20

Aggregate Score of Alabama 33, Clemson 31

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images