clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

7 reasons the Alabama-Clemson rematch is a must-watch for everybody

New, comments

Good morning! This is the Read Option, your daily college football newsletter. Sign up for this in your inbox!

Tampa!
Tampa!
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There are people in the world who don't assume every important college football game is a thing that must be watched. I can't believe it either.

In case you know any of those people, please FWD them this document to help convince them to watch Monday night's National Championship between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). It's for their own good.

Bama's going for its fifth title in eight years, which would solidify this run by Nick Saban as the best dynasty in the sport's history, while Clemson's going for its second title ever and first under Dabo Swinney.

1. Last year's Bama-Clemson game was the best Championship in a long time.

Just two teams that were loaded with talent, playing a back-and-forth game with gigantic haymakers in every direction, all pivoting on a masterful trap sprung by the game's best coaching staff, with Clemson QB Deshaun Watson vaulting to a new level of stardom in his team's one-score loss. No big deal.

2. And Clemson looks better than it did before last year's game ...

That wasn't the case for part of the season. But the Tigers offense has been on fire since September. The defense has had a few rough games, but still ranks better than last year in yards per play and points per game (though about the same in advanced stats). And Clemson's 31-0 annihilation of Ohio State in the semifinals seems to have eliminated any lingering concerns about the Tigers' season.

The main change from last year: Clemson's healthy and experienced this time. Top receiver Mike Williams has played all year after missing 2015, giving Watson a deep threat he lacked. Those Tigers also had injuries to their two best defenders (Mackensie Alexander and Shaq Lawson), had a young roster, and were facing a Bama program that'd been in the Playoff the year before and won three of the last five BCS Championships before that.

"We're a healthier team, but more importantly, we've got more functional football players," Swinney said Sunday. "We're competitively built differently from a depth standpoint than we were last year."

Clemson's gotten so much buzz over the last week, Bama players are fairly starting to assess themselves as the underdogs.

3. ... but Bama's been better this season than it was last year.

The Tide are undefeated and on the verge of becoming the third team to ever go wire-to-wire from preseason through postseason as AP No. 1 (1999 Florida State and 2004 USC) and would be the first to do it in a 15-game season.

This defense might be Alabama's best of the Nick Saban era, with better yards per play than any since 2011 and by far the most overall hell-raising (the most sacks per game of any Saban Bama defense and 15 non-offensive touchdowns).

And this offense is the culmination of Lane Kiffin's overhaul, with true freshman Jalen Hurts set to become just the second true freshman QB ever to lead a national title (Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway, 1985). It's not the best of the Saban era, but it's a top-20 unit, and it's certainly one of the most entertaining. The backfield's so loaded, the No. 4 rusher, sophomore Bo Scarbrough, took over the Peach Bowl against Washington.

4. The Tide have some drama! The Tide never have drama!

Kiffin left early for the FAU head coaching job, meaning fellow former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian got the promotion from "analyst" to offensive coordinator a mere seven days before the title game! That might mean Bama's unsettled and in trouble! A weakness!

Or it could just mean Bama's even scarier:

[LSU defensive coordinator Dave] Aranda has coached against a Sarkisian offense before, when the latter was head coach at USC and Aranda was defensive coordinator at Utah State.

"What I remember from Sark was that he was a little more connected in terms of run and play-action passes," Aranda said. "I can see Alabama using a lot of play-action passing and the run game, trying to instill that dominance in the middle and trying to hit shots off of it. With Sark, the play-action looks are going to look like runs, the same run play five times and then they go over the top with it.

"That didn't happen as much with Kiffin. He just had so many plays. He had ‘gotcha' shots downfield, where they didn't worry about making it look like a run play you'd already seen."

5. These teams are both awesome, despite having totally different personalities.

That came across at media day, when we asked players on both sides to just talk about whatever they wanted, and it's summed up better by this photo than it ever could be by words:

Swinney's Clemson embraces the moment, whether that means dancing in the locker room with donuts or continuing the tradition of fans storming the field after every game, while Saban's Alabama focuses on the next moment. Remember those times he complained about national titles cutting into his recruiting time?

Two different paths to the Championship. What matters about everything that happened before Monday: they both made the Championship.

CFB in your inbox, everyday, for free!

Get an original mini-column on the college football thing of the day, plus news, links, and fun stuff!

6. This is almost certainly the last game for the guy who's probably Clemson's greatest player ever.

Watson, a two-time Heisman finalist and one of only four two-time Davey O'Brien Award winners, might be a two-time Heisman winner if the trophy were voted on after bowl season. He's thrown a few too many picks this season, and Clemson's kept his wheels under wraps at times (by design), but there's little question he's the Championship's most important player.

Next up after this: potential No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, unless some dude you've barely heard of somehow wins the NFL's heart, which is the likely scenario.

7. It's the last college football that matters until August.

Not sure what you need beyond that.