Silverberg: Alabama-Clemson, Part IV takes center stage

By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg

Alabama and Clemson will meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship for the third time in four years tonight and for the fourth consecutive year in the playoff overall.

It’s no surprise many college football fans outside of the two competing fan bases may be growing tired of the repeated matchup, but one thing’s for certain; the biggest game of the season features the best two teams in the country.

And it’s not even close.

Alabama and Clemson went wire-to-wire as the top two teams in the College Football Playoff rankings. Now the fourth installment of college football’s biggest rivalry will decide the sport’s first ever 15-0 team.

Both teams are coming off one-sided semifinal games. Alabama leaped ahead of Oklahoma early and often before cruising down the stretch and Clemson stifled Notre Dame.

Each school boasts young stud quarterbacks that are still too young to enter the NFL Draft, solid running backs, playmaking wide receivers and opportunistic defenses.

The game could ultimately come down to those stud quarterbacks. Clemson’s opponents have completed less than 53 percent of passes this season. For Alabama it’s even less. Both defenses are in the top five in sacks this year.

Tua Tagovailoa was thrown out of rhythm early and often before eventually being knocked out of the SEC Championship against Georgia. The Bulldogs pass rush had struggled for a good portion of the season. Imagine what Clemson’s defensive line could do against the Crimson Tide even without Dexter Lawrence.

On the flip side Jake Bentley and South Carolina were doing something right against Clemson in the regular season finale. The Gamecocks’ signal caller threw for over 500 yards and five touchdowns. Sure, part of that was garbage time, but if there’s a chance South Carolina exposed any little thing in the Tigers defense then Nick Saban will find it.

Trevor Lawrence hasn’t had a freshman moment yet since taking over the starting job for Clemson and don’t expect him to have one against Alabama, but the Tide defense is excellent at disguising coverages and schemes that won’t mirror anything the Tigers quarterback has seen so far.

The last three title games have been airtight. Expect this one to be no different. Considering the blowouts typically seen in the semifinal games the National Championship has proven to be appointment television even if the audience is tired of seeing the same uniforms again.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Clemson 31.

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