As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Monday, January 11
8:30: Clemson vs. Alabama (College Football Playoff Championship Game @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): Well, here we are. This was definitely the predicted matchup, with neither of the semifinals presenting much of a challenge. If this were still the BCS era, there wouldn’t have been a controversey over the title game matchup. Fortunately, it isn’t the BCS era, but still.
You likely know the narratives coming into this one, but I find the usual stories probably don’t give Clemson enough credit. I suspect that, “Clemsoning” aside, the Tigers like it that way. The disarmament starts with their head coach. I was there, by sheer coincidence, for Dabo Swinney’s first game as head coach, as they played (and lost to) Georgia Tech. At the time, me and probably most observers figured that the interim tag would be as far as he’d get. However, the hire has turned out to be shrewd. Dabo doesn’t call the plays, heck, with the best paid assistants and coordinators this side of the SEC, who knows how much gameplanning he really does? But he recruits like hell, and as a gameday coach and motivator he’s proven himself to be one of the best. And now it’s showing. Clemson has long had skilled, er, skill players, but what has vaulted this Clemson squad into the elite is their defensive line play. That will be something to watch.
I don’t think I need to say that much about the Crimson Tide. They, too, have elite coaches directing elite talent. However, this Alabama team is not invulnerable, particularly their secondary can be beat. I also don’t think they have much on offense outside of Derrick “El Tractorito” Henry, but that’s a hell of a piece to have.
Well, it’s time for my last prediction until September. I’m picking the Tigers in a slight upset. I think both these teams are great, but I think the Tigers have a slight edge on the offensive side of the ball.
Previous Meetings: It’s not great for the Tigers, as they’re 3-12 all-time against Alabama. Even worse, those three wins came in the first three meetings in 1900, 1904, and 1905. They’ve met intermittently since, with 20-30 year gaps not uncommon. Their last meeting was in 2008, when the Tide won 34-10.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit