Dabo Swinney won’t apologize for Clemson’s success
A position-by-position look at who has the edge between Alabama and Clemson in Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game.
This one is really close, but Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gets a slight edge thanks in part to having an extra year of experience and having faced better defenses. With that said, Trevor Lawrence has passed every test thus far, and these are two of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Alabama might have more depth at this position, but Travis Etienne’s ability to change a game in an instant gives the Tigers an edge. The All-American Etienne has 700-plus yards more than any of Alabama’s running backs, and Clemson has three backs averaging more than 7.5 yards per carry compared with none at Alabama.
Wide receiver/tight end
This one is also really close but Alabama has more home run threats with its top five receivers averaging more than 16 yards per catch. There is plenty of star power with Clemson’s Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Amari Rodgers and Hunter Renfrow and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and Irv Smith Jr.
Both of these units have played well this year and are a big reason why their teams are in the national championship game. Alabama has faced the better defensive fronts, going up against LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and Georgia in four of the past five games, and the Crimson Tide have allowed 13 sacks compared to 17 by Clemson.
Even without Dexter Lawrence, Clemson’s defensive front with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Albert Huggins still has plenty of talent. Alabama’s Quinnen Williams might be the best defensive player in the game, but Clemson’s line is better overall.
Clemson has a strong group with Tre Lamar, Kendall Joseph and Isaiah Simmons, but Alabama’s Dylan Moses, Mack Wilson and company might be the best group of linebackers in the country.
Both of these teams have been vulnerable against the pass at times, but they’ve also put together dominant performances in some instances as well. Clemson’s two performances against Texas A&M and South Carolina are much worse than anything Alabama has allowed this year.
These are clearly the best two teams in the country, but neither has excelled in special teams. Alabama is a solid 14-for-19 on field goal attempts but has also missed eight extra points. Clemson is 11 of 17 on field goal attempts and both teams average less than 40 yards per punt.