Matt Connolly

Five reasons Clemson can beat Alabama

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney recaps win over Ohio State

'What a night. What a journey,' says Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney.
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'What a night. What a journey,' says Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney.

A look at five reasons Clemson can beat Alabama this time:

Deshaun Watson

Clemson’s star quarterback played perhaps the best game of his career last season against Alabama, finishing with 478 total yards and four touchdowns. That Crimson Tide defense, like this one currently, was considered the best in the country. He also loves playing on the big stage. In three playoff games, Watson is averaging 284 passing yards, 92 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Clemson’s defensive front

The Tigers’ defensive line whipped Ohio State up front for four quarters Saturday night, as it has done to most teams this season. Alabama isn’t most teams, but the Crimson Tide struggled to block Washington at times in its semifinal. The Huskies sacked Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts three times and pressured him several other times.

Alabama’s inexperience at QB

Speaking of Hurts, he is a true freshman who has had an up-and-down year. Hurts was down Saturday against the Huskies, completing 50 percent of his passes for 57 yards in the biggest game of his career. Hurts is averaging 189 passing yards per game, while completing 65 percent of his passes. Solid numbers, but far from great.

Focus

This Clemson team has made it apparent that it feels some guys last season were not 100 percent focused down the stretch. That has not been a problem for the Tigers this year. Clemson’s leaders, including Ben Boulware and Carlos Watkins, have made sure their younger teammates know how important film study and focus is leading up to a game. Clemson’s defenders pointed to those reasons as why the Tigers dismantled Ohio State.

Clemson’s weapons

The Tigers haven’t seen a defense close to as good as Alabama’s this year, but the Crimson Tide haven’t seen the weapons Clemson has either. Mike Williams is a matchup nightmare, and Clemson has plenty of other playmakers if Alabama focuses most of its attention on him. The Tigers scored 40 points and had more than 400 passing yards against Alabama last year, and that was without Williams and Deon Cain.

National championship

Who: Clemson (13-1) vs. Alabama (14-0)

When: 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Line: Alabama by 6 1/2

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