By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
On Monday night, the No. 2 Clemson Tigers faces No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. for the College Football Playoff National Championship. The game is slated to start at approx. 8 pm EST on ESPN.
The Tigers are 13-1 and the Crimson tide are 14-0. Clemson is 6-0 on the road and Alabama is 5-0.
This is the third meeting all-time between the two teams. Alabama won 45-40 over Clemson on Jan. 11, 2016 in the College Football Playoff National Championship last year.
The Crimson Tide also won 34-10 in their initial meeting on Aug. 30, 2008.
This will be the first game that Steve Sarkisian will be the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator. Sark takes over for Lane Kiffin, who was let go of his duties last week to focus on his new job as the Florida Atlantic University head coach.
“Sark has done this for a long time, and he’s called plays for a long time,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “He’s got a lot of experience; he’s got a lot of knowledge. I think he’s very well organized in his approach, and I’d tell him what I tell any coach; we’ve prepared to do certain things in certain situations, let’s stick with the plan.”
Sark came to the team as an offensive analyst in Sept. Then, when Kiffin was named FAU head coach, Saban promoted Sarkisian to be the offensive coordinator.
“I’m excited,” Sarkisian said. “This is what I love to do. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is also a former walk-on with the Crimson Tide. The 47-year-old had seven receptions for 81 yards in three seasons and he was a member of the 1992 Crimson Tide’s National Championship team.
He walked onto the team — or as he likes to joke, crawled onto the team — before earning a scholarship and receiving letters from 1990 through 1992.
This is Alabama’s fourth neutral site game of the 2016 season. To advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game, they defeated the No. 4 Washington Huskies 24-7 at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
They also defeated the Florida Gators 54-16 on Dec. 3, also at the Georgia Dome, in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game. Alabama also won 52-6 over the Southern California (USC) Trojans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Clemson will be making their third neutral site game this season. They defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies on Dec. 3 42-35 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
Then, in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, also the second College Football Playoff semifinal, they defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 31-0 on Dec. 31 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Az.
Alabama is 38-24-3 in their previous 64 bowl games. They have won their previous three bowl games, all in the College Football Playoff.
They have not lost a bowl game since Jan. 1, 2014 when they were defeated 42-35 by the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.
This is the Crimson Tide’s first bowl game in Tampa, Fla. since Jan. 1, 1997 when they won 17-14 over the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl.
They are 1-1 all-time in Tampa, Fla. bowl games in school history. They were defeated 28-24 by the Wolverines on Jan. 2, 1998 in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
Clemson is 21-19 in their previous 40 bowl games. In the aforementioned PlayStation Fiesta Bowl game, they defeated the Buckeyes 31-0.
They have not lost a bowl game since losing in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship game to the Crimson Tide.
Prior to last year’s loss to the Crimson Tide in the final college football game of the 2015 season, they had not lost a bowl game since Jan. 4, 2012 when they lost 70-33 to the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Orange Bowl.
This is the Tigers second bowl game in Tampa, Fla. They defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 30-0 in the 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl on Jan. 1, 1991.
Clemson is on a four-game win streak. They have not lost a game since Nov. 12, 2016 when they lost 43-42 to the Pittsburgh Panthers on a game-winning Chris Blewitt field goal.
Alabama has won their last 26 games. They have not lost a game since Sept. 19, 2015 when they lost 43-37 to the Ole Miss Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Al.
DeShaun Watson leads the Tigers attack with 4,173 passing yards. He has 38 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
Wayne Gallman has 1,087 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Mike Williams has 1,267 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jalen Hurts leads the Crimson Tide attack with 2,649 passing yards. He has 22 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
Damien Harris has 1,016 rushing yards and two touchdowns. ArDarius Stewart has 852 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Crimson Tide sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough had a 180 rushing yards against the Huskies. He has had 361 rushing yards in the past three games — against the Auburn Tigers, Florida Gators and the Huskies.
“It’s not like they’re going to run a different offense,” Swinney said. “You know, maybe he calls a couple more screens than the other guy would have called. I have no idea.”
Sarkisian is hoping he’ll get a better game out of 18-year-old Hurts. He had 57 passing yards in his last game against the Huskies.
“I’m not naïve to think we’re not going to have a couple of glitches,” Sarkisian said. “But how we respect to those glitches is going to be key.”
Prediction: Alabama 35, Clemson 31
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