The second season of the College Football Playoff concludes at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, as the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.
The CFP National Championship presented by AT&T is set for Monday, January 11, with a 7:30 pm kickoff.
It is the game everyone wanted to see, and now they will. The two teams who have been at the top of the CFP rankings since the second poll, with Clemson #1 in all six while Alabama started #3 but has been #2 for the last five. Alabama is the most powerful team from the most powerful conference against Clemson, an upstart just returning to the upper echelon of the sport struggling for respect.
Clemson was a field goal underdog against Oklahoma. They are a touchdown underdog against Alabama, and they have quite the chip on their shoulder.
No FBS team has ever gone 15-0. Clemson will with this victory. The Tigers are led by Heisman finalist QB Deshaun Watson. Watson’s duel threat has been something Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s defenses have had much trouble with through the years. From Cam Newton at Auburn, to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, to Cardale Jones of Ohio State a year ago, quarterbacks who can run as well as pass have been a major matchup problem for Alabama.
Alabama’s defense is getting all the attention, but Clemson’s defense has become stout themselves. The physical beating they administered to powerful Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl was shocking. The Sooners were shutout in the second half, even though the Tigers were without Shaq Lawson who tweaked a knee early. He will play against the Tide which is bad news considering his 10½ sacks and nation best 23½ tackles for loss this season.
If you merely described Alabama’s performance against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl as dominant, it would not suffice. The Tide did whatever they wanted against the Spartans, stuffing their running game and consistently putting QB Connor Cook on his back.
Offensively the plan was to use Heisman winner Derrick Henry as a decoy, and toss the ball over the top. Jacob Coker had the game of his life, 25-of-30 for 286 yards, including a pair of touchdown passes to freshman star Calvin Ridley. Cyrus Jones had a critical interception as well as a punt return touchdown. Henry still ended up with two touchdowns himself, despite tight quarters.
Clemson continues to get little respect and they seem to thrive that way. Nick Saban is going for his fifth championship, fourth at Alabama while Alabama graduate, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, looks to lead Clemson to their second title. It is a matchup for the ages, and SEC brawn should win out.