Levi's Stadium Santa Clara

Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Pick & Prediction JAN 7TH 2019

Logo Clemson Tigers
Logo Alabama Crimson Tide

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1. Two stalwarts of the College Football Playoff era square off for a fourth consecutive year when No. 2 Clemson takes on top-ranked Alabama for the national title Monday in Santa Clara, California. After splitting a pair of championship-game matchups following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, the Crimson Tide dispatched the Tigers 24-6 in the semifinals last year, and both emerged as early favorites to reach the title game. "I think as the season evolved, just knowing how well Clemson played all year long and how they were pretty dominant in their league, it was no surprise to me that they would end up where they are right now," Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters. "You're always looking at the next game and not looking too far ahead and all that, but it's no surprise to me that they're in the championship game, as well."

2. The first two meetings - Alabama's 45-40 win in January 2016 and Clemson's 35-31 triumph in January 2017 - were classics that went down to the wire, and both coaches expect a similar outcome between two evenly matched teams on Monday. "When you look at this game, I think both teams are kind of mirror images of each other, to be honest with you - really good defenses, dynamic quarterbacks, very talented running backs and explosive skill, and just kind of built in the trenches. We're so similar," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. "So it's going to come down to just execution and mentally being sharp and making those two or three plays that you don't know when they're coming. So you just have to truly play every play like it's the play." Both teams rank in the top five nationally in total offense, scoring offense and scoring defense, while Clemson is fifth Alabama 13th in total defense.

3. Clemson will be without star defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella for a second straight contest after the trio tested positive for ostarine prior to the national semifinal game. Galloway and Giella are reserves who play sparingly, but Lawrence is a critical piece of the Tigers' dominant defensive line. Alabama suspended tight end Kedrick James and offensive linemen Elliot Baker and Deonte Brown for unspecified NCAA violations prior to the semifinal game, but the latter (five starts) is the only one of the three who played a key role this season.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Alabama -5.5 [litl]

ABOUT CLEMSON (14-0): Swinney made the bold decision to go with Trevor Lawrence as his starting quarterback four games into the season, and the move has paid off as the freshman has piled up 2,933 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions. Lawrence's big arm gives the Tigers a downfield threat on every play, but running back Travis Etienne (1,572 yards, 22 TDs) is the workhorse on offense. Despite losing Dexter Lawrence, the defense still was dominant in last week's 30-3 victory over Notre Dame (as the Clemson were -10.5 point favorite at intertops) and possesses four players who have recorded at least 10 tackles for loss, including Clelin Ferrell (18 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks).

ABOUT ALABAMA (14-0): The Crimson Tide have evolved from the team that was content to run the ball and slug out a low-scoring win, as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (3,671 passing yards, 41 TDs, four interceptions) leads a high-powered offense. Alabama's best shot at attacking the Tigers is through the air as five receivers have made at least six touchdown receptions, with Jerry Jeudy (1,176 receiving yards, 13 TDs) leading the way. Alabama's defense might be the most susceptible unit on the field, having given up 454 and 507 total yards, respectively, in its last two games, so getting stops in the red zone and forcing turnovers will be key against Clemson's explosive offense.

PREDICTION: Clemson 37, Alabama 34





Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Clemson won its second national championship in three seasons and did it in style, handing Nick Saban his worst loss at Alabama as the Tigers dethroned the Crimson Tide 44-16 on Monday night at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell scored on a 44-yard interception return on the game's opening possession, running back Travis Etienne scored three first-half touchdowns, true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence passed for 347 yards, and Justyn Ross put on a show with 153 receiving yards.

Lawrence, who took over as the starter in the fifth game of the season, was unflappable en route to becoming the second true freshman quarterback to lead his team to the national title, joining Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway in 1985.

He humbled Alabama's all-star defense, completing 20 of 32 passes with three touchdowns, including a precision 5-yard pass into the end zone to Tee Higgins to push the lead to 44-16 late in the third quarter.

Clemson won its third national title and the second under coach Dabo Swinney, whose team eked out a last-second victory over Alabama in the 2016 title game. This time, the margin of victory was nearly unthinkable.

The Crimson Tide had never lost by more than 14 points during the 12-year tenure of Saban, who was going for a record seventh national championship to break a tie with Tide legend Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice in the first half after being picked off just four times on 321 passes entering the game.

Clemson's domination was such that it turned away Alabama three times on fourth down in the second half, including on a fake field goal and after the Tide had second-and-goal at the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

This was the fourth meeting in the College Football Playoff in four seasons between Alabama and Clemson, with each team winning twice. The Tigers are 2-1 in title matchups, with the Tide also winning a semifinal game last season.

With this game billed as a heavyweight rematch in the tradition of Ali-Frazier, the knockout blows might have been a 1-2 combination: Lawrence connected with Ross on a 74-yard scoring pass for a 37-16 lead in the third quarter three plays after Clemson easily sniffed out Alabama's fake field goal attempt on fourth-and-6 from the 22.

Etienne ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts, also catching a 5-yard TD pass.

Each team came out throwing haymakers, with Clemson landing first with Terrell's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown just 1:40 into the game.

Alabama gained 224 yards in the first quarter but just 42 in the second as Clemson took control on both sides. The Tigers scored the final 17 points of the half, led 31-16 at the break, then shut out Alabama in the second half.

--Field Level Media


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