College Football Playoff Review
For the second straight year, Alabama and Clemson will meet in the national championship game. The Crimson Tide submitted yet another stellar defensive performance in a 24-7 win over Washington, while the Tigers gave their best performance of the season in a dominating 31-0 victory over Ohio State.
Alabama (14-0) allowed an early touchdown to the Huskies, but the Tide quickly responded and tied the game on the ensuing possession. Washington was blanked for the remainder of the game, and quarterback Jake Browning threw a pick-six at the end of the first half that proved to be insurmountable for the Huskies.
Bo Scarbrough played his best game of the season as he carried the ball 19 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Jalen Hurts only completed seven of his 14 passes for 57 yards, but he also ran for 50 yards. Washington was held to only 194 yards of offense throughout the game.
In the other semifinal, Ohio State missed two first half field goals and Clemson pulled away in the second half behind a stifling defense and a couple of spectacular throws from quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson threw two interceptions but completed 23 of 36 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 57 yards and two more scores. This marked the first time an Urban Meyer team has ever been shut out, and the Buckeyes recorded their lowest yardage total of the season with 215 yards.
National Championship Game Preview
Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 in the 2015 national title game to secure Nick Saban’s fifth championship overall and fourth with the Crimson Tide. The two teams are set for a rematch on Monday (Jan. 9), and UA is favored to win yet again.
Alabama’s path to the title game was more dominating and almost inevitable after a certain point. Once the Tide defeated LSU 10-0 in Baton Rouge in early November, they were almost a certainty to reach the playoffs again. Alabama is looking to become the first team in college football history to finish a season at 15-0. The Tide defense has been impenetrable this season in allowing approximately 11 points per game.
Clemson’s path wasn’t as smooth as it was last season, and on several occasions it included late-game heroics from Watson. The Tigers narrowly defeated Auburn in the season opener and had close calls with Troy, Florida State and Louisville. Pitt defeated Clemson on a last-second field goal to give the Tigers their only loss of the year, but Clemson still won its division and eventually the Atlantic Coast Conference title.
For Monday’s rematch, Watson and company will face a tougher Alabama defense. However, the Clemson offense is more explosive this season due to the presence of Mike Williams at receiver. Alabama’s offense is dynamic at times, though the passing game certainly isn’t the strongest attribute for the team. Alabama relied on Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry last season and will need big performances from running backs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris this time around. Clemson’s defense lost a considerable amount of NFL talent from last year, but the Tigers can still be an elite unit, as they proved last week against Ohio State.
Lane Kiffin will not serve as Alabama’s offensive coordinator for the championship game. Kiffin was named the head coach at Florida Atlantic University, and Saban decided it was best for both if he moved on before the game. Steve Sarkisian will call plays for the Tide and will be the team’s offensive coordinator next season.
Just as it did a season ago, special teams will likely decide the game. Alabama recovered an onside kick and returned a kickoff for a touchdown last year, and those were the deciding factors in the game. This should be another competitive, down to the wire type of game and another one-possession nail-biter. Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 31.
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College Football Playoff Review