I will lead this column with a single piece of advice: Don’t be fooled. What may seem to be a close game is still as one-sided as when bowl season began.
Here is the case for the Tigers: Clemson made Ohio State look silly in its 31-0 romp last Saturday night. Deshaun Watson looked like a Heisman winner as he disassembled the Ohio State secondary that many touted as a superior unit.
I won’t sell Clemson’s defense short either. The Tigers stifled an OSU offense that averaged nearly 40 points per game this season.
They have a chip on their shoulder going into the title game, hungry for the upset victory they feel they deserved last season, when a perfectly called special teams play made the difference in one of the tightest matchups we’ve seen in years.
At first glance, this seems like a good place to park your Christmas bonus cash. The hungry Clemson Tigers, on a roll after a drubbing of No. 2 Ohio State. Again, DO NOT BE FOOLED.
I may have said this game would be close, had Alabama scored offensive touchdowns in the second and third quarter to go along with the two it scored in the first and fourth. I may have also said this game would have been close, if Alabama had not yielded the opening score to Washington and gone on to crush the Huskies 31-0 as Clemson did to Ohio State.
Because the aforementioned events did not happen, Clemson lost the most essential tool in its campaign to capture a national title: the element of surprise.
I’m sure most of us laughed at the purple-faced Nick Saban as he blustered, “Snap the ball!” from the Alabama sidelines Saturday as the Tide absorbed a delay of game penalty amidst its dismal offensive performance.
An angry Nick Saban is a force unlike any other. Lane Kiffin knows that as well as anybody. Kiffin took much of the blame for Alabama’s offense not being at its sharpest. So he is leaving his offensive coordinator’s position early to devote all his attention to being head coach in sunny Florida. He will have to watch his former team play for the national championship from his armchair in his new multi-million dollar Boca home.
Again, don’t be fooled by this shakeup on the offensive side of the ball. Alabama is awake. Saban is furious. Rest assured, he will whip his troops into shape before kickoff on Monday night.
Jalen Hurts was unremarkable against Washington, but he managed a sound game with no turnovers (with the exception of one poorly handled carry that produced a fumble that his team recovered). I am expecting a bounce back for college football’s most talented freshman after attempting his second fewest passes in a game this season.
Last, but most importantly, is the Tide’s defense: 194 total yards allowed to Washington, a team that averaged 457 yards per game this season. It is one of Saban’s finest units in his time at Alabama. With that being said, I will remind you once more to not be suckered in. Saban and his Tide will roll once more and put a triumphant exclamation point to perhaps the best season of his tenure in Tuscaloosa.
The pick: Alabama -8