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College Football Playoff Championship

Monday, Jan. 11, Glendale, Ariz.

Clemson vs. 2. Alabama (-7.5). Not many people expected a pair of blowouts in the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve. Alabama annihilated Mi-chigan State to the tune of 38-0, and it probably could’ve been worse. The Clemson/Oklahoma game was tightly contested for a half, but the Tigers shut the Sooners out in the second half en route to a 37-17 victory. Alabama and Clemson have played consistently better than anyone else this season, and both teams have been solid in all three phases of the game for most of the year.

Alabama’s path to the championship was seemingly on life support in early September. After a 43-37 loss to Ole Miss that included five turnovers, it was easy to count out the Crimson Tide despite the fact that they had overcome an early season loss to Ole Miss the previous year to make the playoffs. This Alabama team didn’t look quite as explosive or consistent offensively, the secondary still gave up big plays, and they made too many mistakes on special teams. They also had to endure what looked like a brutal October schedule. 

Starting with the Georgia game in early October, however, the Crimson Tide began to show signs of a championship-caliber team. The defense – particularly the line – started to look like one of the best units that Nick Saban has ever had in Tuscaloosa. Bama produced dominating wins over the Bulldogs, Arkansas, and Texas A&M while surviving a close game to Tennessee in late October. After the bye week, the Tide manhandled LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Florida. Now Alabama is playing for its fourth national championship in seven seasons under Saban.

While Clemson’s schedule wasn’t quite as difficult, the Tigers were just as impressive throughout the season. A 24-22 early season win over Notre Dame earned Clemson national recognition, and the Tigers continued to run through the ACC unscathed. The Tigers are the only undefeated team remaining in college football and are looking to become the first FBS team to ever finish a season 15-0. 

In his seventh full season as Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney has compiled an impressive overall record of 75-26. Under Swinney, Clemson has also won double-digit games in five consecutive seasons. Swinney also won a national title as a player at Alabama in 1992 under Gene Stallings. 

Two of the three Heisman Trophy finalists will be squaring off in this game, including this year’s Heisman winner, Derrick Henry. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson finished third in the Heisman voting, and he was arguably the best quarterback in college football this year. 

Alabama has had some difficulty with mobile quarterbacks in the past, but this game will be won at the line of scrimmage. The Tide’s offensive line has played better as the season has progressed, and the defensive line features possibly three first round picks. 

Clemson has also been great at the line of scrimmage, and Swinney has built this team similarly to an SEC team. In close matchups, turnovers and big plays usually decide the game, as well as consistency on special teams. Both teams have been great all year, but in big games, it’s hard to pick against Nick Saban, who is 4-0 in national title games. Prediction: Alabama 31, Clemson 26. 

Postseason Awards

Offensive MVP

Derrick Henry, Alabama

Defensive MVP 

Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Coach of the Year

Nick Saban, Alabama

First Team Offense

Quarterback

Dak Prescott, Sr., Mississippi State

Running back

Derrick Henry, Jr., Alabama; Leonard Fournette, So., LSU

Wide Receiver

Laquon Treadwell, Jr., Ole Miss; Pharoh Cooper, Jr., South Carolina; Calvin Ridley, Fr., Alabama

Tight End

Hunter Henry, Jr., Arkansas

Line

Cam Robinson, So., Alabama; Vadal Alexander, Sr., LSU; Ryan Kelly, Sr., Alabama; John Theus, Sr., Georgia; Sebastian Tretola, Sr., Arkansas

Kicker

Daniel Carlson, So., Auburn

All-Purpose

Christian Kirk, Fr., Texas A&M

First Team Defense

Line: A’Shawn Robinson, Jr., Alabama; Jonathan Allen, Jr., Alabama; Jarran Reed, Sr., Alabama; Myles Garrett, So., Texas A&M

Linebacker

Reggie Ragland, Sr., Alabama; Kentrell Brothers, Sr., Missouri; Zach Cunningham, So., Vanderbilt

Defensive Back

Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., Florida; Eddie Jackson, Jr., Alabama; Jalen Tabor, So., Florida; Jamal Adams, So., LSU

Punter

Drew Kaser, Sr., Texas A&M

Honorable Mention

Quarterback: Chad Kelly, Jr., Ole Miss; Josh Dobbs, Jr., Tennessee

Running back: Alex Collins, Jr., Arkansas: Jalen Hurd, So., Tennessee

Wide Receiver: De’Runnya Wilson, Jr., Mississippi State; Fred Ross, Jr., Mississippi State; Drew Morgan, Jr., Arkan-sas

Tight End: Jake McGee, Sr., Florida

Offensive Line: Dan Skipper, Jr. Arkansas; Braden Smith, So., Auburn; Shon Coleman, Jr., Auburn; Dylan Wiesman, Jr., Tennessee; Brandon Kublanow, Jr., Georgia

Defensive Line: Robert Nkemdiche, Jr., Ole Miss; Marquis Haynes, So., Ole Miss; Derek Barnett, So., Tennesse; Cory Johnson, Sr., Kentucky

Linebacker: Skai Moore, Jr., South Carolina; Antonio Morrison, Sr., Florida; Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Jr., Tennessee

Defensive Back: Trae Elston, Sr., Ole Miss; Tre’Davious White, Jr., LSU; Mike Hilton, Sr., Ole Miss; Carlton Davis, Fr., Auburn

All Purpose: Evan Berry, So., Tennessee

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