Two old, familiar foes will face off against each other for the fourth year in a row. The No. 2 Clemson Tigers and No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide meet again in the College Football Playoff national championship game. It shouldn’t shock anyone, though, they’ve been the two best teams all season long.
Unlike the last time the Tigers played the Tide, Clemson has found a new weapon at quarterback with true freshman Trevor Lawrence. Can the breakout star be enough to defeat quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the vaunted Crimson Tide defense? There are several key matchups in store for Monday night in Santa Clara, California that will send one of these teams back East a winner.
Clemson’s OL vs. Alabama’s DL
As good as Clemson’s offense has been at times, their offensive line can make mistakes, and that was easy to tell in the Notre Dame game. The Alabama defensive front, lead by All-American defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, will be hard to handle. For Clemson to win this game, they will need to protect their quarterback better than they have been this season and establish the run game. If Lawrence is well protected, he can be dangerous.
Trevor Lawrence vs. Alabama’s Secondary
Trevor Lawrence may be a freshman, but he is nothing to sneeze at. Lawrence has turned this Clemson offense around with his passing ability, something they didn’t have last year with Kelly Bryant at quarterback. This young Alabama secondary will be tested once again, and the last time they were tested by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray, it wasn’t pretty, especially later in that Orange Bowl game. The good news for the Tide is that unlike Murray, Lawrence isn’t a run-first quarterback, which should be an advantage for the Tide.
Tua Tagovailoa vs. Clemson Defense
Despite having a solid defense overall and an elite front four along their defensive line, the Clemson secondary does have its weaknesses. In their last regular season game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, they gave up 510 passing yards against Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. We all know what Tua Tagovailoa can do against a defense when healthy, so it will be up to the front seven of the Tigers to put pressure on Tagovailoa, or it’s going to be an uphill battle for Clemson. Just ask Oklahoma.
Nick Saban vs. Dabo Swinney
This matchup is more even than one would think, but Swinney is one of the few coaches out there that has defeated Nick Saban, and he has done that by building his team similar to Alabama with a great passing attack and a tough defense, but is that enough? Alabama’s defense at times has struggled against good quarterbacks, but despite that, they still have one of the top 10 defenses in the country to go along with Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa. But it will take more than Tagovailoa to win this game. Both the Tide and Tigers will need near-perfect performances from their quarterbacks and their defenses if they are going to win on Monday night.