Clemson vs Alabama - It's Not The Same Story
Guest Writer: Jonas Clark
How many times can you read the same book before you start just skimming the sentences, not hanging on the words? How many times can you watch the same movie, and still feel what it was that made it your favorite? Thankfully, we don't have to ask that question when it comes to college football and the National Championship. The covers make look the same, but what happens in the action between them has been anything but.
Nick Saban (or as Chris would put it, Satan) and Dabo Swinney are set to make their fourth meeting in the College Football Playoffs, and third for the crystal football. Alabama holds the series at 2-1, but the last time they played for the title, Clemson took the trophy with a comeback led by Deshaun Watson. This time the Tigers are led by true-freshman QB Trevor Lawrence, a kid that reminds fans of "Sunshine", the quarterback from Remember the Titans. This time, Alabama has may have the most potent offense they've had under Nick Saban, with a talented quarterback of their own in Tua Tagovailoa, this year's runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. And that's just the start of the storylines.
Clemson started this season, ranked #2 behind only Alabama. At the beginning, their position only wavered due to uncertainty and inconsistency. They ran a two quarterback system with Lawrence and the incumbent Kelly Bryant splitting halves and even quarters of games as Dabo Swinney adjusted according to the opponent and game situations. By game five, the coach had seen what he needed to to move forward with freshman at the helm. Swinney has also seen good things from his defense, as Clemson has the top defense of the two, not Alabama, going into Monday night's National Championship Game. Tigers finished as in second, as opposed to Alabama's ranking thirteenth. At the front of that defense, Clemson is without impactful starting defensive tackle, Dexter Lawrence, who tested positive for a banned substance and won't be playing in the game. Eligible for the NFL Draft, his stock could take a hit Dabo can make his absence a non-factor.
On the other side, Tua is coming back from an injury sustained in the SEC Championship game. Ever since he stepped on the field in the second half of the 2018 National Championship Game for Alabama against Georgia, the college football world has seemed to revolve around him as he torched defense after defense during an undefeated season. The only thing he lost in 2018 was the Heisman Trophy, which many believe was still an upset when Kyler Murray of Oklahoma was voted the winner. Jalen Hurts stepped in to quarterback the Crimson Tide through the semi-finals, and would be ready again if called upon on Monday. He has been on the big stage too; After all he was the starter for 'Bama that Tua replaced in last year's title game. The question is, will the Crimson Tide defense be ready when called upon Monday? Clemson had the third ranked offense in terms of total offense and touchdowns over the season, plus 530 yards per game.
History tells us that Alabama should win this game, with Nick Saban nearly unstoppable with a title on the line over the past decade. The stats last fall tell us that Clemson should win. While trophies may make this seem like a David versus Goliath, it is anything but. More like one Goliath versus another Goliath. So no, we haven't gotten this story before. Wait... What was the premise of Rocky III again? Maybe we have. Is that too much a stretch?