Alabama vs. Clemson picks: Final score predictions for 2017 national championship
Our experts pick the NCAA football championship game against the spread
Alabama and Clemson are set for the first national championship game rematch in college football history. The two teams have been near the top of the rankings all season with the Tide looking to go wire-to-wire at No. 1 in the three major rankings.
With the College Football Playoff National Championship upon us, it's only fitting we bring you our expert picks for the big game in Tampa on Monday, Jan. 9.
Here's how our team sees Alabama-Clemson II shaking out against the spread. Plus, each of our writers explains their call for the game and delivers a score prediction, too.
Dennis Dodd -- Clemson 27, Alabama 20: Clemson is playing too well and there is too much upheaval at Alabama at the moment. Look, it takes a lot to even pick against Bama, but the planets are aligning. Dabo already knows the Alabama gameplan, having faced it last year. For the second consecutive year, he has the best player on the field (Deshaun Watson). Nick Saban is asking an analyst -- albeit with head coaching experience -- to call plays in the national championship for the first time 11 years and for the first time at all in 15 months. As weird as Lane Kiffin might have been, Steve Sarkisian left the game because of substance abuse issues. Now, he inherits a quarterback in a winner take all game who -- despite Jalen Hurts' success -- has been learning how to play QB in the context of chasing a championship. Even Saban can't overcome all that. You know what looks like stability right now? I hate to say this but ... Kiffin.
Jon Solomon -- Clemson 20, Alabama 17: Watson and Clemson are highly motivated to redeem themselves after last year. The Tigers are the rare team with the players and style to seriously challenge Alabama's incredible defense for 60 minutes. If anyone can pull off changing offensive coordinators one week before the national championship, it's Saban. I actually like Alabama's chances better without Kiffin. That tells you what a mess it became with Kiffin. Look at the confidence right now in Watson and Hurts. That's the difference as Clemson wins its second national title.
Jerry Palm -- Alabama 27, Clemson 20: As much as the talk has been about how Clemson wants another shot at Alabama, I think Alabama's defense in particular wants another shot at Clemson. The Tide gave up 40 points to the Tigers last year, and that's not something that will sit well in the defensive meeting rooms this week. Not only does Alabama have the best defense in the country, but it will be one that comes into this game with a chip on its shoulder. The Tigers have too many weapons to shut down completely, so they'll have better success than Washington, but not enough. Clemson's defense will be hard pressed to duplicate the game they had against Ohio State. They played at a level they hadn't shown all year against good teams. It'll take that kind of effort again to have a chance to win.
Tom Fornelli -- Alabama 31, Clemson 23: If there's one team in the country that I would seriously consider capable of beating Alabama, it's Clemson. That being said, I'm still picking Alabama. I get that aside from Clemson being incredibly talented, and having Watson. There's a lot of concern over the upheaval at Alabama, but while I don't think it's an ideal situation, I also think it's being overblown.
Sarkisian has been a coach for 17 years, including six as a head coach. I don't think a few months away from calling plays will lead to him forgetting how football works.
Also, even if the Alabama offense struggles, Clemson still needs to solve the Alabama defense. As amazing as Watson has been this year, he's still turned the ball over a lot. As we have all seen on a weekly basis, if there's a defense you don't want to turn the ball over against, it's Alabama's. And they can force them. I expect this to be a close game, and possibly even a classic, but at the end of it, the team holding up the trophy will be the one that's done it before. Roll Tide and whatnot.
Robby Kalland -- Alabama 27 Clemson 24: I expect this to be a lower-scoring version of last year's game where we get tremendous performances from both teams in a narrow Alabama win. For the most part, Watson has been able to outplay his turnovers this season, but I think against this Alabama defense, his propensity for giving the ball to the opposition will finally be too much to overcome.
I expect the Tide's defense to come in with a game plan that makes him sit in the pocket and throw the ball, rather than trying to heat him up and move him after he was so dominant as a runner and scrambler last year and has shown he'll throw interceptions this season. Clemson's a great team with the better quarterback, but it's impossible for me to pick against this Alabama defense this season.
Ben Kercheval -- Clemson 30, Alabama 26: The temptation to ride with Alabama, who has unquestionably been the best team from start to finish this season, was high. Besides, the Crimson Tide have been outrageously good against the spread, even as heavy favorites. Also, I'm of the belief the change at offensive coordinator from Kiffin to Sarkisian is overblown.
There may be some philosophical differences from Kiffin to Sark, but Alabama isn't about to go reinvent their wheel with just a handful of practices left before the biggest game of the year. But I look at these two teams, and with Alabama's defense being so dominant, it feels like the Tide's offensive inconsistencies have been masked. And Clemson has been playing its best football since losing to Pitt. Yeah, there's the whole revenge factor from last year, but it just seems like Clemson is playing its best football now.
Chip Patterson -- Alabama 31, Clemson 27: Watson is the best quarterback Alabama has faced since, well, Watson, and he'll have two stud receivers in Mike Williams (injury) and Deon Cain (suspension) that both missed last year's title game. The Tigers versatile and athletic run-stopping front is perfect to slow down Alabama and I think the Tide will find themselves tested in a way they haven't been all season, maybe even trail for most of the game. But all season, the creeping inevitability of another Saban Alabama championship has been right around the corner and now it's here. My heart says Clemson, my cynical brain says nothing can or will stop the Alabama death machine. Roll Tide.
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