Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Date and Time: Monday, January 9, 2017, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
CFP Championship Game Odds at BookMaker.eu: Alabama -7, 51.5
Clemson vs. Alabama TV Coverage: ESPN
When Clemson Has the Ball…
This really is the matchup to watch. The Alabama defense has been remarkable this year, and the thing that it does better than any team in America is force turnovers and turn those directly into points. The team has scored 11 defensive touchdowns this season, including one in the national semifinal against Washington when Ryan Anderson picked off a swing pass, of all things, and brought it into the end zone to effectively put the game away.
Deshaun Watson has been a little turnover prone this season, and the fact of the matter is that he has to play a relatively spotless game if the Tigers are going to have a shot. He only turned it over once last year on an interception to Eddie Jackson. Jackson though, is out of the fold this year thanks to a broken leg he picked up in the middle of the season.
When Alabama Has the Ball…
Lane Kiffin is always subjected to the proverbial thrashings and dirty looks from Saban, and that's part of the reason that he has to be thrilled to get in his car to go to his new job at Florida Atlantic once the title game is said and done with. We joke about this, but we do find it a bit interesting that Alabama and Ohio State, two teams who have offensive coordinators getting ready to take new head coaching jobs once this season is over with, came up with what really looked like bland, vanilla game plans in their respective semifinals.
Of course, the big difference between this year and last year is the presence of Jalen Hurts under center for the Crimson Tide. He's a true freshman, and he sure looked like it against Washington. He was only asked to throw the ball 14 times in the game, and he'll have to do more than that in this one.
The big thing that Clemson took advantage of against Ohio State was team speed to the outside. If the Crimson Tide are going to win this game, they're going to have to do so by generating matchup problems right up the middle. That means lot of Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris in the running game and O.J. Howard up the seam in the passing game in the middle of the field.
The X Factor
The kicking game hasn't cost either of these teams this season, but when you look at the two kickers, you can't have a heck of a lot of confidence.
Sophomore Greg Huegel, who missed a field goal in the title game last year, has very little in the way of range. He's never even attempted a 50+ yard field goal in his career and wouldn't figure to do so in the title game either. He's only 11-for-17 from 40+ yards in his career and missed a 30-yarder against Ohio State in the third quarter. Make that same mistake against Alabama, and you'll be sure to pay, knowing that points are generally at a premium against one of the top defenses we've seen in college football in recent years.
Adam Griffith meanwhile, went just 20-of-27 last year and has a history of being shoddy when it matters most. He's missed four of his seven kicks from 40 yards and out, and for the most part, Saban has just elected to dial up fourth down offensive plays when his team is around the 30-yard line this year.
It might not necessarily be the kickers who decide this one, but you can bet that these two offenses are going to be more focused on touchdowns than three-pointers when they have their opportunities.