It has all come down to this. The National Championship. Top-ranked and undefeated Clemson vs. Heisman winner Derrick Henry and Alabama. No matter who comes out on top, the fans will be the real winners.
I’m going to do something a little different for this preview. I’ll make a case for both teams, and hopefully after that, I will have figured out who to pick to win.
Clemson will win if…:
Deshaun Watson rushes 100+ yards and a TD and passes for 175+ yards and 2TDs and Wayne Gallman rushes for 65+ yards and a TD or two. To win this game, Clemson needs to do what they have done all season: score. A shootout heavily favors the Tigers. Clemson was held under 33 points 3 times this season: Louisville (20-17), Notre Dame (24-22), and Florida State (23-13). Clemson also needs to control the time of possession to win this game. The only way to beat Alabama’s defense is to wear them out (maybe). While scoring quickly isn’t bad, giving perhaps the best defense in the country rest isn’t great. Clemson will also need to mix things up on offense. This defense will make adjustments after every drive, so throwing the same things at them won’t end well. Clemson’s defense will have their hands full with Derrick Henry and Jake Coker. Alabama isn’t a one-dimensional offense, so the Tigers will need to be on their toes. If Clemson can score 40 points, I think they will win the game.
Alabama will win if…:
Derrick Henry rushes for 150+ yards and 2TDs, Jake Coker throws a TD and no INTs, Cyrus Jones has an explosive kick/punt/INT return (not necessarily for a TD), and they hold Clemson to 28 points or less. Alabama has to control the time of possession to win this game. They are not built to beat this Clemson team in a shootout. If the Tide can string together 5-minute scoring drives, they will give their defense time to rest and give them the best chance to slow down Deshaun Watson. Momentum is going to be a huge factor in this game. Alabama needs to make sure that if they do allow a big play from Clemson, it doesn’t turn into two or three big plays. Alabama has been great at forcing turnovers this season, and forcing a couple in this game could be the difference. On offense, Jake Coker needs to complete passes early. Everyone knows Derrick Henry will get the ball, but he is at his best in the 4th quarter when opposing defenses are tired. Alabama’s offense needs to help their defense. Clemson will score in this game, so Alabama will need more than FGs to win this one.
This really is a tough pick. Both teams are very strong and can win. That being said, Alabama’s defense is amazing. I think they will give the Tide the chance to win this game, but it’ll be a close one. I am picking Alabama, 27-21.