For the third time in four years, the Alabama Crimson Tide will meet the Clemson Tigers to determine college football’s national champion. Both of the two previous entries in this series were high-scoring thrillers with Alabama beating Clemson, 45-40, for the 2015 national championship and Clemson winning, 35-31, at the gun in 2016. Alabama knocked off Clemson in the semifinals last year, so they currently hold the trump card, and the Crimson Tide are favorites in this year’s clash. The game is slated for Monday, January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. Alabama is currently a 5.5-point favorite and the total is 59.5.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama has been the best team in the country all year long. The Crimson Tide started off the year ranked No. 1, and they have not relinquished it in any poll or metric.
The sensational Tua Tagovailoa has given this team an added dynamic it lacked in the past. Tagovailoa showed what he can do when he led Alabama over Georgia in the national title game last year, and this year further demonstrated he is the best quarterback that Nick Saban has had during his time in Tuscaloosa. He finished runner-up to Kyler Murray for the Heisman Trophy, but he was nearly flawless against his counterpart in the semifinal last week. Tagovailoa went 24-27 for 318 yards and four touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over once in a 45-34 victory.
Of course, when you think of Alabama, defense is the first thing that comes to mind. The Crimson Tide were among the nation’s best in that area too, although they weren’t as stout as they have been in the past. Granted, many of the yards and points they allowed were in garbage time, but Oklahoma proved you can move the ball on this team. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is one of the leaders up front, and he received some Heisman Trophy votes, while Raekwon Davis has been touted as a top ten pick.
Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent. It’s rare to see a returning starting quarterback usurped on a national title contender, but Lawrence showed that he was ready to take the reins from Kelly Bryant after the first four games of the season. The true freshman was one of the most hyped quarterback recruits ever, with Trent Dilfer declaring that he was already better than at least 15 NFL quarterbacks as a high school senior. He has lived up to the billing so far, and he shredded Notre Dame’s vaunted defense in the semifinal.
The Tigers have the best defensive line in the country. Although Clemson might not have star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence available for this one, the Tigers have three other future NFL draft picks in Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, and Christian Wilkins, and Albert Huggins did a very nice job filling in for Lawrence against Notre Dame. They could be the first team all year to really shut down Alabama’s ground game.
National Championship Pick: Clemson +5.5
I’m a believer in Lawrence. He is the most polished college quarterback I’ve seen since Andrew Luck, and he can make all the throws. Clemson is sure to take note of how Murray and Oklahoma moved the ball against Alabama’s defense, and the Tigers will be able to generate the offense they need to keep this within the number and possibly pull off the upset.
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