Alabama vs. Clemson IV: The National Championship Game

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GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11: The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Alabama vs. Clemson IV

If the College Football Playoff National Championship Game was a movie, the intro music would start with “Here We Go Again” by DMX. For the fourth time, the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide will go head-to-head for the coveted, year-end national championship hardware. From the original production through every sequel, this match-up has been a star-studded slugfest. Alabama won in the original show. Clemson won in the sequel. Alabama won the third last year in the semifinals, and now here we are, popcorn in hand, watching the previews all weekend, as we get ready for the next series. The Natty, take four: No. 1 Alabama will play No. 2 Clemson at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 7, at 8 p.m. ET.

The Setting

There are not many movie series that get better with every sequel, save for Star Wars, and yet another match-up between the crimson and orange is no exception. While the main characters Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, who Last Word on CFB has dubbed Emperor Palpatine, are two of the most famous CFB coaches to either love or loathe, it’s the setting that just might be the real loser in this.

Levi’s Stadium is home of the San Francisco 49ers and a few Pac-12 title games. While the west-coast stadium just happened to come into the CFP venue rotation, it is not lacking criticism from every angle. Dubbed the “billion-dollar blunder” shortly after its construction, it has been a constant ailment: NFL players complaining about the turf, patrons and players complaining about the heat. In its first year, there were numerous distress calls relating to heat-induced medical emergencies, however, the 49ers are still stating there is nothing they can do about it. In addition to stadium-goers, the FAA also reported airline pilots expressing safety concerns about the blinding lights from the stadium. With grievances about the sand-laden turf, let’s just hope that the Tigers and Crimson Tide have their golf cleats on for this game.

The Scene

With two teams from the southeastern part of the country, fans are somewhat limited to the travel time and cost to California, especially right after holiday expenses. While ticket prices have plummeted as the game approaches, the venue is in danger of not even selling out. Pricing currently sits at about a fourth of what the previous year’s NCG between Alabama and Georgia brought in. According to Tick Pick, the current National Championship Game is averaging a ticket price of $1,805, with a “get-in” price of $452. At this time last year, prices were 65% higher to watch Alabama-Georgia in Atlanta at $2,984. It is very likely that you could attend the game, should you make the trip, for face value.

However, if you cannot make the journey, the town of Clemson will be holding a watch party on College Avenue, where the open container laws will be suspended between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight for the watch party.

My colleagues and I are fairly certain this is how The Purge began, am I right?

The Protagonist

As I type this, my phone notifications are alerting me that Dabo and company are departing the university to head to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, where two planes will be heading for sunnier weather on the west coast. However, with some empty seats.

On December 20th, Coach Swinney received some not so festive news about his players failing drug tests. The three Clemson players, including starting defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, offensive lineman Zach Giella, and tight end Braden Galloway sat out for the Cotton Bowl while a secondary test, used to weed out false positive results, were pending. However, they will remain suspended for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game after a second failed drug test returned positive results for the banned muscle-growth supplement, ostarine.

The Antagonist

Clemson is not the only ones to be losing A-List actors, as Alabama will also be missing three players for the title game. Offensive guard Deonte Brown and two backups, Elliot Baker and Kendrick James were suspended prior to the Orange Bowl against No. 4 Oklahoma due to “violation of team rules and policies.”

One significant player will be in attendance, however, and in great force. Tua Tagovailoa. According to reports, Tua will have at least 405 family members seated in support in Levi’s Stadium. Most of them from the Bay Area, however many are driving and flying in from Utah, Colorado, Washington, and of course, Hawai’i. The Crimson Tide will be certainly be represented, especially one player in particular. And if you’re wondering, “Owili Kaha” is how you say “Roll Tide” in Hawai’ian.

Money Shot

On another note, ESPN is rolling out the red carpet for the Natty. According to their latest press release, the programming mogul will not only offer 17 ways to watch but will also debut several new presentations as well as innovative technology for the game. The National Championship Game will be available across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, SEC Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN3, ESPN Radio, and ESPN Deportes Radio, all of which are available on the ESPN App.

There will be no angle missed for this game, as ESPN will also feature 250 cameras inside the stadium, including the introduction of the Ultimate Pylon Angle and AllCam. The new pylon angle is for plays occurring around the goal line pylons, where there will be 40 cameras focused on each of the four pylons along the two goal lines. According to ESPN, the cameras will combine the multiple angles, providing a more in-depth replay that will be used for hard-to-determine scoring plays around the pylons.

The AllCam, which you can watch a preview of here, captures the entire playing surface on every play. When this angle is paired with zoom capabilities, it will provide views of any action on the field at any time.

ESPN is also implementing their Ref Cams on four referees’ hats, providing a similar camera view as the refs’ line of sight. The refs wearing the cameras are expected to be the line judge, field judge, side judge, and back judge.

The Series

Heading into the weekend, the Crimson Tide are five-point favorites with the total at 59.5 in the latest Alabama vs. Clemson IV odds. In the first CFP meeting in 2016 in Glendale, Arizona, Saban elected to go for an onside kick with the score tied at 24 in the fourth quarter. And in typical darkside manner, it was executed flawlessly. As the Empire struck back, Tide won the game 45-40.

In the 2017 sequel in Tampa, Florida, Saban wasn’t so lucky. All looked in favor for the reigning champion as freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts gave the Tide a 31-28 lead with 2:07 remaining. But it was Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who finished with 463 total yards and four touchdowns, who turned the tide. With a series of passes to move the ball, he threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining. Clemson 35, Alabama 31.

In the third match-up, the semifinals in New Orleans in 2018, Saban and the Tide were out for an Oscar performance. It came down to a defensive scene starring the two quarterbacks from each team, Jalen Hurts and Kelly Bryant. The Tide took home the hardware, 24-6, but it was Mack Wilson’s 18-yard interception return for a touchdown before the end credits that would seal the deal for Clemson.

Roll Credits

Expect nothing less than the best performance of their careers out of these teams come Monday night. There will be cheers, there will be tears, and there will be plenty of applause. And possibly a new coaching record.

Prediction

As the scene fades to black after an Academy Award-winning performance from Alabama, the song “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen starts to play. Bama, 49-41.

Main Photo Credit:

GLENDALE, AZ – JANUARY 11: The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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