Duel in the Desert
Glendale, Ariz. — What a week it’s been here in Arizona. And the game hasn’t even been played yet.
Well, that will come soon enough. Like, tonight.
Clemson and Alabama clash tonight at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., for the second College Football Playoff National Championship.
Alabama’s been here before, too many times in recent years than is honestly fair. But they’ve earned it, even more so with the new playoff system. Clemson? Their last title was 35 years ago, but they are just as worthy of this opportunity.
This game should be a great one. Will it be decided when strength-on-strength is on the field with Clemson’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense? Bama has shown a tendency in the past to be susceptible to up-tempo offenses. Look no further than last year’s Playoff semifinal vs. Ohio State, when the Buckeyes rolled up 537 yards. Word is that Nick Saban and Kirby Smart got with OSU’s former offensive coordinator after the season and talked about how Ohio State attacked. Clearly the Tide learned some lessons, as they were able to dominate any team in their path this season, and only five turnovers vs. Ole Miss spelled defeat.
Then there’s Clemson’s offense, led by all-world quarterback Deshaun Watson. He’s only the first FBS QB to record at least a 70 Total QBR in every game this season. Alabama has not allowed a QBR of 40 or more in 11 consecutive games.
Want to blitz Watson? Good luck. He thrives on it, throwing 22 touchdowns with a QBR of 92 on such plays. Yikes.
No, I think this game will be decided when Alabama has the ball. As mentioned earlier, only a five turnover night by the Tide could sink them vs. Ole Miss, and they still almost won that game. If the Clemson defense can slow (not stop) the Alabama running game a little bit and force some third-down and longs, it might be their best chance.
Clemson is ranked No. 1 yet is an underdog in this game. Here’s what I think happens – Alabama gets off to a decent start but can’t finish in the red zone. It’s 6-0 after one quarter before Watson and company find their groove and get going. They score two touchdowns in the second period and lead, 14-13, at halftime.
Alabama’s Jake Coker self-destructs in the second half, throwing two costly interceptions, including one deep in Bama territory. Clemson takes advantage and wins their first National Title since 1980 by a score of 31-23. Watson is named MVP and another pizza party is on in Clemson.
I expect a fantastic game tonight. Let’s hope so, since most of this bowl season has been a yawner, at best. Nick Saban may be considered “The Godfather” when it comes to collegiate head coaches, but Dabo Swinney is no slouch, and he proves it tonight.
There have been concerts, food, SportsCenter, SEC Now, more SportsCenter, did I mention food? The Arizona Organizing Committee has done a great job. Time to cap off an incredible week and college football season with a stellar game.