Clemson will win the College Football National Championship if….
Clemson does what Clemson does! The Tigers have to have a big game from quarterback Deshaun Watson, but maybe not as big as last year when he nearly accounted for 500 yards. Watson needs to spread the ball around to his array of talented receivers and when necessary move the chains with his legs.
The Tigers’ offensive line faces its greatest challenge of the season and how their tackles handle Alabama’s great defensive ends will be key. But Watson has been difficult to sack all season because of the work up front and his ability to escape a broken pocket. With Watson on the money down the field, that should open up some running room for Wayne Gallman, and when Gallman rushes for over 100 yards, the Tigers usually win.
I think this is Clemson’s time. Watson, Gallman, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Jordan Leggett, all future pros, have pointed to this moment for the past year since being denied by Alabama in the desert. The Tigers have a good enough offense to get theirs’ against another great Alabama defense, just as last January. Only this time, Clemson’s defense appears to be better suited to the task, and I don’t think the coaching staff will lose the strategy battle to Nick Saban.
Move over Danny Ford, you have company on Clemson’s Avenue of Champions as Dabo Swinney will leave Tampa with a 35-21 victory.
Clemson will win if Deshaun Watson plays like he usually does when he is on the big stage. From his very college first drive at Georgia his freshman year, to the Orange Bowl and national title game last year, to the Fiesta Bowl last week.
Watson thrives when the spotlight is on him. He helped the Tigers hang 40 on Crimson Tide last year with an offense that didn’t even have Mike Williams. As good Williams is he’s probably underrated. No one has been able to cover him this season and some pro scouts are comparing him to Calvin Johnson, yet for some reason he wasn’t even a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. He’s a huge weapon.
Clemson will be the best offense Alabama has faced this season. The Tigers might also have the best defense Alabama has faced this season. You know Brent Venables is going to have a game plan to disrupt a true freshman quarterback who will be getting his plays from a new offensive coordinator that hasn’t been an on the field coach for the Tide until this week. There’s a lot more pressure on Alabama than there was this time last year. It’s hard to win a title and even harder to repeat.
I’ve been saying since the end of the Fiesta Bowl that this is Clemson’s year. Nothing has happened to change my mind. I like Clemson to win 31-28.
Clemson will win this game on the field. Not in a players meeting. Not in a coaches booth with a new strategy. At this point there is no strategic edge in Dabo-Saban coaching match up.
Clemson wins by keeping Ben Boulware in the box to stuff the run and forcing Hurts to toss the ball. If the Clemson defense can rub Alabama rookie QB Jalen Hurt’s face into the turf, then Clemson will win the College Football National Championship.
Hurts shows his rookie side when he faces pressure in the pocket. With time to look downfield Hurts completed 73.8 percent of passes this season. That completion percentage drops to a peon level 31 percent when opposing players bring on the heat in the pocket.
But Brent Venables will have to hold back his blitz-happy nature. Hurts passed for 13 of his 22 touchdowns facing the blitz and only tossed 2 interception. But if you take away the extra man and keep the pressure by just rushing four lineman and that TD/INT ratio drops dramatically. In non-blitz situations Hurts threw only 9 touchdowns paired with 7 interceptions.
Fortunately for Clemson the defense line accounts for 35 of their 49 sacks.
If Clemson can keep a consistent pressure rushing four lineman and containing the running game, they will make Jalen Hurts day terrible and skip to a 24-17 victory.