In many ways, a rematch of last year’s epic national championship seems like it was fate. This time last season, it was Alabama who overcame skepticism (whether it was actually deserved or not) en route to beating a then-undefeated Tigers team. This time around, it’s the Tigers who many (myself included) have called “overrated” or “underachieving”.
Last week, I went 1 for 2 in my predictions. I saw Alabama beating Washington, as did most of the country. On the flip side, the last thing I expected for the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl was a blowout on either side. I obviously incorrectly picked the Buckeyes. I underestimated the strength and depth of Clemson’s team.
In ‘Bama’s win, the Tide controlled the game defensively, holding Jake Browning to 150 passing yards and two interceptions. Offensively, they ran the ball down the Huskies’ throat, as Jalen Hurts threw for less than 100 yards. I think that, while it wasn’t a blowout, it was a typical Nick Saban-era game for Alabama.
Interestingly enough, in Clemson’s win, they gave up 27 first downs and 427 total yards (193 of those being on the ground). The Buckeyes also had greater time of possession. The difference stemmed from Clemson being able to force 4 turnovers, which put their elite offense in great positions to succeed. It was Clemson’s offense that stole the show, gaining 527 yards of total offense.
If Clemson is going to win, they’re going to need to play a cleaner game. I get that is strange to hear coming off of a shutout win, but giving up 193 yards on the ground won’t be enough to beat Alabama. Furthermore, the Tide has a sizably better receiving corps than Ohio State did. As great as Ohio State’s ground attack was leading up to that matchup, it’s Alabama’s bread and butter. The Tigers would need to put this game into Jalen Hurts’s hands, and I’m still not sold on the Tigers’ ability to stop the run.
If Alabama is going to win, they need to take the ball away from Deshaun Watson twice at the very least. Watson is turnover prone, but last season, he was able to torch the Alabama D – 405 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception and 20 carries for 73 yards. I’d argue that the Tide have a better defense than they did last year, but they’re still going to have to force turnovers at a better clip in this game than they did last season.
Ultimately, I think Alabama is going to repeat. I don’t really root for either team at any point, though I do respect the greatness of Watson and company. However, I think Clemson has escaped a lot this season. And even in a blowout game last week, the final stats of that matchup suggests trouble for the game tonight. I hope I’m wrong, because I’m tired of Alabama at the top. But we shall see.
Cover Photo via Sports Picks 24/7