Alabama and Clemson have delivered a pair of incredible games each of the past two seasons. Monday’s matchup in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans should be no different.
These are quite possibly the top two teams in college football, despite Alabama entering the game as the No. 4 seed. The Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 throughout the year before losing to Auburn on the road, making way for Clemson to enter the College Football Playoff at No. 1.
Both of these teams are led by their defenses – with Alabama featuring the top scoring defense in the country, allowing 11.5 points per game. The Tigers are right behind at No. 2, allowing 12.8 points per game.
But I think what gives Clemson an edge is the fact that it has so many playmakers that it can spread the ball around to on offense.
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The Tigers have prided themselves on being a balanced team all year. Clemson is rushing for 204 yards per game and passing for 244. It has a talented group of running backs and wide receivers, along with a quarterback in Kelly Bryant, who has exceeded just about everyone’s expectations and has been playing his best football at the end of the year.
Clemson has a pair of explosive backs in Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster and three receivers with more than 45 catches, led by Hunter Renfrow, who has 55.
Alabama also has a deep and talented backfield, led by Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, but its offense has been less balanced.
The Tide are averaging 200 passing yards per game and struggled mightily in their last game, finishing with only 103 against Auburn.
The only real threat for Alabama in the passing game has been Calvin Ridley, who has 55 catches. The next leading receiver is running back Bo Scarbrough with 14.
It isn’t going to be easy for Clemson. Alabama’s defense is incredible, even with several linebackers banged up. Points will be hard to come by, but ultimately Clemson’s playmakers on offense will make a few more plays than Alabama’s.
The Tigers feature one of the best front sevens in the country, and as long as they don’t allow an abundance of big plays, I don’t see Alabama moving the ball consistently enough to win against Clemson’s strong run defense and ferocious pass rush.
Prediction: Clemson 21, Alabama 17