Five Reasons Why the Alabama Crimson Tide Can Win the NCAA Championship
by Charles Jay Scores & Statson
There is no one who is going to tell Nick Saban what he needs to do to win a championship; he has done it six times already, and maybe that is one of the principal reasons why he can probably do it again. Success begets more success, and there are few coaches in the country who have built on the ability to get quality athletes into his program more than Saban, who was so reviled for deceiving the press in Miami (when he was coach of the Dolphins) about his intentions that he took on the nickname "Nick Satan," but has since erased that memory almost completely.
His 2018 team is different than the others he has won national titles with because there is such a potent aerial dimension added to it. And that is what makes his squad dangerous from anywhere on the field.
And if there is anything that is going to spring a surprise on Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers on Monday night, it is just that - these guys can throw the ball and do it with a level of accuracy that is as good, if not better, than anyone in the nation. And that is the reason they are here, once again, playing for all the marbles.
The Alabama Crimson Tide is listed as a 5.5-point favorite over Clemson with a total of 59.5 points, and we're sure some of this will change before game time, which is at 8 PM ET on Monday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. Can they win the game and cover the spread?
Here are five reasons why they would be able to do it:
1. THEY HAVE TUA Plain and simple. Tua Tagovailoa stepped in last season and bailed them out when the offense was struggling mightily against Georgia in the title game, as Saban made one of the boldest moves of his coaching career in replacing Jalen Hurts. Tua can't necessarily run like Hurts, and with a sore ankle it is even less likely, but he is fearless and accurate, and carried his stellar performance in the championship game into this season, with 41 touchdown passes with just four interceptions and almost 70% completions. He has demonstrated his ability to come through big when the stakes were highest, and that is not something we can say just yet about his talented counterpart, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. That single experience in the second half of last year's Georgia game is enough to rate 'Bama an edge here.
2. QUINNEN WILLIAMS IS THE "STOPPER" TO WATCH. While Clemson will have to go without defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence in this one, Alabama's own monster in the middle is present and accounted for. Quinnen Williams is being hailed by many as the best defensive tackle in the nation, and he could be one of the picks at the top of the list when the NFL Draft takes place. It will be important that the Crimson Tide gets a push-up front, not just to combat the run but to prevent Trevor Lawrence from stepping up in the pocket, and Williams may be just the guy to facilitate that. Remember, Clemson has a true freshman at quarterback, and Alabama has the highest sack rate in the country.
3. ALABAMA MAY HAVE THE NATION'S BEST OFFENSIVE LINE Clemson might have the best defensive line in the country, although they will miss Dexter Lawrence in a game like this. But the Tide can counter that with a superior group of offensive linemen, including center Ross Pierschbacher, who gained first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press in his first year at the position (he had been the left guard) and left tackle Jonah Williams, who could be the first player at his position taken in the draft. As a unit, they allowed just 14 sacks, and that's critical because Clemson is coming with a pass rush that led the nation in sacks and Tua did not sound like he felt 100% with the ankle in an interview after the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma. Being able to neutralize that standout defensive front is going to be a huge boost to Saban's team.
4. ALABAMA COULD BREAK A RETURN OR TWO While Alabama kickers have indeed missed eight extra points, there are indeed other components of the special teams that can be scary. In fact, according to the analytics that are compiled by the folks at Football Outsiders, the Crimson Tide ranks #1 in the nation in "Kickoff Return Efficiency," meaning they don't waste opportunities. The guy to watch here is Josh Jacobs, who also performs as part of the triumvirate in the Alabama backfield.
5. CLEMSON HASN'T SEEN THIS VERSION OF THE ALABAMA OFFENSE YET In the three previous times these teams have encountered each other in this playoff atmosphere, Alabama's posture has been to minimize mistakes at the quarterback spot and let the defense and running game do most of the work. That changed in the second half of last year's title game when Tua appeared. This is a team that can now strike, and strike fast; this offense is second in the nation in "Big Play Rate," which is the frequency of plays that go 20 or more yards. They average 7.9 yards PER SNAP. They are 53.9% on third down, and usually, they don't have to wait until then, as 77.7% of their first downs come on first or second down. They were second in the nation with 47.7 points per game. This is the kind of thing opponents just weren't used to before. Tua has been the game-changer. And as for the running backs, they haven't been forgotten; the team still runs the ball 56.7% of the time, and even though none of the backs has huge individual numbers, there are in fact three of them, and two of them (Damien Harris and Najee Harris) were rated #1 at the position coming out of high school.