National championship, Alabama vs. Clemson predictions, picks, spread, line
Their first College Football Playoff title game was a thriller, and odds are the rematch will be, too
While it certainly isn't a rule, it's generally accepted that the sequel is never quite as good as the original. The logical explanation for this phenomenon is that a movie doesn't get a sequel unless the first installment was popular enough to warrant one, which means that the sequel has lofty expectations to live up to.
When these two teams met in Glendale, Arizona last year, they gave us all an exciting game. Even if the final minutes of the game didn't provide an incredible amount of drama, Clemson still put on an offensive performance against the Alabama defense that we just aren't used to seeing. Deshaun Watson accounted for 478 yards of offense and four touchdowns, but it just wasn't enough.
And now these two forces meet again.
There's Alabama, a team which seems unstoppable. A team whose rise to yet another national title has seemed pre-destined for just about the entirety of the 2016 season. On the other side is the one team that has truly offered a real threat to Alabama's supremacy in Clemson.
So will this sequel be any good? I don't know, but everybody's already bought their tickets and in their seats with a bucket of popcorn waiting to find out.
Players to watch
Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: There is no player in this game more important than Deshaun Watson. Simply put, if Clemson wants to win this game, it will need Watson to play spectacularly. If he is just average, or plays subpar, the Tigers have no realistic chance to beat that crimson juggernaut on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
The good news for Clemson is that Watson is one of the best players in the country, and he has a knack for coming up big in the brightest moments.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama DL: Everywhere you look while you're viewing the Alabama defense, you see a living nightmare. Actually, let me correct that. When you look at the Alabama defense, you see 11 players that give the monsters in your nightmares nightmares of their own. Just giant after giant, each stronger or faster than the next.
And in the middle of it all is Jonathan Allen. Alabama runs one of the most simple defensive schemes in the country, because it doesn't need to try and trick you. Everyone it has back there is better than your guy, and Allen is a huge reason for this. Any time you have a force as disruptive, destructive and instinctual as Allen on the defensive line, it makes life easier for everybody else. Outside, inside, wherever you put him, he commands the utmost attention from an offensive line, allowing his partners on the line nothing but one-on-one blocking schemes to beat.
He's the center of it all.
I want to take Clemson, I really do. I want to imagine a scenario in which I could realistically pick against Alabama, and feel good doing so. I mean, if there's any college football team in the world that can actually beat Alabama, it would be Clemson.
It's just I don't think it will be Clemson.
The Tigers were amazing last week against Ohio State, but I think that game, with a month to prepare, makes it a bit too easy to forget how difficult Clemson found life to be in a lot of games this year. There was the loss to Pitt, but there were also the close calls against Louisville, Florida State and Virginia Tech. Hell, if not for a couple of missed field goals, this Clemson team probably loses to NC State earlier this season, and isn't even in a position to be playing in this game.
Also, Deshaun Watson played damn near a perfect game against Alabama last season, and it still wasn't enough.
Even if Clemson's defense has improved this year -- particularly on the defensive line, which was already fantastic -- it doesn't have the depth that Alabama has. I've seen teams hold up against Alabama's defense for a quarter or a half, but I'm yet to see anybody do it for an entire 60 minutes.
There's a reason this Alabama team has won 26 straight games, and I believe it's going to be 27 straight soon enough. Pick: Alabama -6.5
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