After three months, hundreds of games and countless hours of speculation, the college football season ends Monday night when No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama square off in the College Football Playoff Championship. The national championship, being played this season at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., kicks off at 8:30 ET on Monday. Television coverage is available on ESPN, and online streaming will be provided by WatchESPN.
Alabama, the only team to make both of the first two College Football Playoff fields, is playing for its fourth title in the last seven seasons under coach Nick Saban. Clemson, on the other hand, has not won a national championship since 1981.
The National Championship will fittingly be the only game this season featuring two Heisman Trophy finalists. Alabama halfback Derrick Henry broke nearly every SEC single-season rushing record this year, running for 2,061 yards and 25 touchdowns through the Crimson Tide's Cotton Bowl win over Michigan State. Meanwhile, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was a consensus All-American and won nearly every accolade but the Heisman Trophy. The sophomore has rolled up more than 4,700 yards of total offense, including 1,032 rushing yards.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Alabama is favored by 7 points.
Three big things to know
It's elementary, Watson. Under Saban, the Alabama defense has been college football's least movable object. But the Crimson Tide has been occasionally vulnerable to dual-threat quarterbacks. Players like Nick Marshall, Bo Wallace, Chad Kelly and Johnny Manziel have led their teams to improbable wins over Alabama. With the possible exception of Manziel, no dual-threat quarterback in that group has been as good as Watson. The Tigers' sophomore signal-caller has been rolling up massive yardage totals -- both through the air and on the ground -- since early October. Increasingly, Watson's running has been as important as his passing -- in five of the last six games, Watson has run for more than 100 yards. Beating Alabama's defense isn't easy, but if anyone can do it this season, it's Watson.
Oh Henry. All of this could be deemed irrelevant if Clemson is unable to stop Henry. The Heisman Trophy winner has come up big in wins over then-ranked Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU. Only two Power 5 conference opponents -- Arkansas and Michigan State -- have held Henry under 125 rushing yards all season. He only became stronger down the stretch, topping 200 yards against SEC opponents Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. Alabama won all four games comfortably. This is not a coincidence. If Henry finds room to run, Clemson is going to have a difficult time keeping up. It will help Clemson if star defensive end Shaq Lawson can play. The Tigers are "optimistic" he can.
This calls for a Coker. Even when Henry isn't particularly effective, it could be by design. Alabama was able to blow out No. 3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl by effectively playing against type. Michigan State tried to cram the interior with defenders to stop the running game, so Lane Kiffin called for quarterback Jake Coker to attack the edges with short throws to Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and Richard Mullaney. The result: Coker's biggest game of the year, 25 completions for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Can he do it again? The consensus had been that Alabama's offense could be stopped if the running game could be limited. That might not be the case anymore.