Crimson Tide vs. Tigers: Round Two
January 2, 2017 by Jean Neuberger • Print Story •
It's come down to the rematch. Clemson vs. Alabama.
It's only fitting that these two meet again. Alabama, Nick Saban's mighty behemoth and Clemson, the resilient bunch who mirror their personality of their leader, Alabama alumnus Dabo Swinney.
These are the two teams that belong here. Sure, we'll all wonder how Penn State would've done if they'd been facing the Tigers instead of Ohio State. Personally, I think as Big Ten champs, the Nittany Lions deserved the right to go to Tempe. Clemson's thorough beatdown of the Buckeyes was enough to convince all that they likely would've beaten Penn State as well. The Clemson win might have slowed down (or hopefully stopped) a dangerous precedent of allowing teams who don't even win their division a chance to win a national title. While the committee continues to say they'll look for the four best teams, no matter what, let's hope that the regular season standings play a more significant role. Winning a conference title should mean more than what it did for Penn State.
However, this isn't about Ohio State, Penn State, or any campus nearby. This is about Clemson and Alabama, who have cemented their status as the best programs in college football. This is about the attempts to either add to Nick Saban's incredible legacy or provide redemption to a proud football school in a conference known more for its hoops. Though, to be honest, the ACC has been phenomenal during this bowl season and, if anything, has provided hope for Clemson to indeed, stun the mighty Tide, who have turned the mighty SEC into its personal playground.
Honestly, a downturn in Alabama's program would benefit the SEC as programs are struggling to keep up with the Tide. However, that doesn't appear to happen anytime soon.
This game has the makings of an instant classic. 'Bama's defense is loaded with future NFL talent and have scored a ridiculous 11 touchdowns (ELEVEN!) on turnovers. They could be licking their chops at the sight of Clemson's DeShaun Watson, who has been more prone to interceptions this year than last. However, Brent Venables has done a phenomenal job with his own defensive unit, as they shut down Ohio State's vaunted offensive attack with relative ease; something that hadn't been done since Urban Meyer ... or Jim Tressell before him, roamed the sidelines in Columbus.
Watson must have a stellar performance to give Clemson a chance and he's got to have support in the run game from Wayne Gallman. Watson's not going to be able to run the football all night, so Gallman's ability to scratch yards against the 'Bama front seven will be crucial. Meanwhile, Alabama RB Bo Scarborough will be called upon again to help take the pressure off of freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Scarborough's performance in the Peach Bowl was huge; especially since Hurts wasn't having his best game. Given that the pressure is only going to be amped up more, it'll be key for the 'Bama backfield to carry some of the load for Hurts.
It's a chess match. A grand master takes on the younger acolyte. It should be fireworks in Tampa; which is exactly what college football needs.