Between The Helmets Of The National Championship Game
What a year!
In 2015 we had the Miracle at Michigan (or the Botched Punt at the Big House if you prefer), the Miracle at Ole Miss, the Miami Miracle at Duke, the Phantom Offsides On The Onsides Kick, OB To TD for Nebraska, the Flop On The Plains, the Hail Mary Prayers By BYU, the Rise of the Rosen One at UCLA, the Sinking of the Cutty Sark at USC and Steve Superior pulling a not-so-superior move by quitting on his team in the middle of the season.
And now it’s all down to one final game, Alabama vs. Clemson for the National Championship on Monday.
Unfortunately this game is in Glendale, AZ, where nobody local cares, instead of in New Orleans, which would bring out everyone from the entire South.
ALABAMA vs. CLEMSON (5:30 p.m., ESPN)
In this battle of two SEC teams, it’s a contrast in styles and a contrast in the programs’ histories but mirror images of near-identical personalities.
Both Alabama and Clemson are located in small towns in the Deep South, Clemson’s legendary coach Frank Howard was born on a cotton farm “three wagon greasin’s from Mobile” and played at Alabama, the last Clemson coach to win a National Championship played and coached at Alabama and Clemson’s current coach played and coached at Alabama.
So in a way, no matter which team wins, Alabama wins.
Whoa, you say, two SEC teams? But Clemson is the ACC!
Well, sort of; it has long been a wanna-be SEC team and only until recently even played Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn on an annual basis. So fans in the SEC look over at Clemson, with its redneck bars in converted gas stations and say “come on over here, ya big lug” before giving it a big bear hug.
Except this year, Alabama may not let go once it gets that big bear hug on that Clemson offense. The Tide’s defense has been like an awakened sleeping giant after the Ole Miss game. The big difference in Alabama’s defense this year and the past is that it can get a pass rush – its 50 sacks lead the nation – when rushing only its front four. The Pachyderms simply stomp their opponents on defense.
Clemson’s outstanding quarterback, Deshaun Watson, will toy with this on occasion but to have any real success he’s going to have to turn into the next coming of Johnny Football and make miracle plays out of run-for-your-life plays.
Or, Alabama’s offense could implode. Lane Kiffin could start throwing wide receiver screens instead of handing the ball off to the Heisman Trophy winner.
The offensive line could get overwhelmed in pass protection, causing once-shaky quarterback Jake Coker to throw interceptions.
The kicking game could fumble two kickoff returns, as it did against Ole Miss.
In other words, improbable things have to happen for Clemson to beat Alabama. As good as the Tigers have been this year, they’ve been caught by the tail on several occasions, only to escape.
Except there’s no escape from Alabama’s relentless defensive pressure, its freight train running back and mean mental disposition. It even has finesse and beauty in wide receives Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart.
Expect Alabama to show up focused and as mean as a beehive as it was when it elephant stomped Michigan State on New Year’s Eve.
After a close two and a half quarters, watch for the Tigers to be washed away by a powerful Crimson Tide. El Nino, Alabama style, hits the desert. Winner: Alabama