The 2016-2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game has arrived, it’s a rematch of last year’s game, and this year Clemson and Alabama will face off in Tampa. It’s a chance for Alabama to remain dominant in the College Football landscape, or for Clemson to get revenge and show the ACC is building a winning legacy as well. Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have their ballclubs prepared for battle, and our experts Steen Kirby, Yesh Ginsburg, John Bava, and Mike Loveall are on hand to get you prepared for Monday’s clash of college football titans.
CFP Championship: #1 Alabama vs. #3 Clemson (Monday 8:00 P.M.)
Line: Alabama by 7
Steen: These are the two great football teams of the season. Clemson dealt with adversity, but rose to the occasion in the Fiesta Bowl, destroying Ohio State’s hopes by halftime. Alabama has been a monstrous machine, rolling through the opposition without a loss, and with little late game competition. The Tide stomped on Washington thanks to their elite defense to march back into another title game. Both teams have a case to win, and both are worthy champions. All of that said, Clemson is the lone team with the personnel, the speed, the defense, the coaching, and the quarterback to defeat Alabama this season. The Tigers are hungry for revenge, and I give DeShaun Watson and company the edge over Jalen Hurts. The loss of Lane Kiffin won’t mean as much as some think, but i still think it’s going to mean a few changes for Bama, and I have the Tigers getting their revenge in a great football game. Clemson 31, Alabama 24
Yesh: All season long, I’ve underrated Alabama’s offense and possibly underrated its defense. I have seriously underrated Clemson, though. The Tigers have not looked great all season long–they’ve had a 2014 Florida State look to them. Until the Playoff, that is. Clemson’s performance in the Fiesta Bowl was nothing short of astounding. Ohio State’s offense hasn’t been great this year, but Clemson’s defensive performance was beyond dominant. If Ohio State couldn’t move the ball against Clemson, Alabama won’t score much either. Washington gave Brent Venables the tools to shut down Jalen Hurts. Dabo Swinney has slowly been building a powerhouse in Clemson, and it culminates with a National Championship on Monday night. Clemson 31, Alabama 24
John: It all comes down to this: an epic rematch between last year’s two College Football Playoff finalists. If Monday’s game resembles the back and forth shootout these teams played in 2016, we’re in for a highly entertaining matchup.
Clemson boasts arguably the most NFL-ready signal caller in quarterback Deshaun Watson. But the senior has been susceptible to interceptions. He threw two in the Tigers 31-0 demolition of Ohio State in the semifinals. And he’ll face an Alabama secondary that’s one of the best in the country at forcing mistakes out of opposing quarterbacks. Minkah Fitzpatrick has six himself including two pick sixes. One of them came against Washington last time out.
The Alabama coaching staff underwent a bit of upheaval recently. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin left earlier than expected to fully focus on the Florida Atlantic head coaching job he recently was named to. In his place will be Steve Sarkisian whom Nick Saban hired as an analyst last year. Might it be enough to cause problems on offense in this game?
The key to this game if Clemson want to pull the upset is to make Bama one-dimensional on offense. Quarterback Jalen Hurts managed just 57 yards passing in the semis and averages just 189.2 pass yards per game, the 78th best total in FBS. But he’s a dangerous dual-threat player who, with Bo Scarborough, could pose problems on the ground for the Tigers.
Dabo Swinney has a more experienced and battle-hardened team than he did when he faced the Tide last time around. It puts them in prime position to pull a shocker in Tampa and take home their first national title since 1981. Clemson 38, Alabama 37
Mike: Alabama has been the prohibitive favorite all season long. Against Washington, however, the offense sputtered and changes at coordinator have people questioning Bama’s potential. Clemson’s absolutely dominated Ohio State last week. Those factors, coupled with the ACC’s resounding bowl season success, have emboldened the Tigers — and the bettors. This is the type of situation where Bama thrives. The Tide make a run at the all-time history talk. Alabama 34, Clemson 24