Two college football goliaths, Alabama and Clemson, are on another collision course. So what else is new?
The Crimson Tide and Tigers will meet once again in the postseason with their Sugar Bowl showdown on Jan. 1 in New Orleans. The game will get underway at 8:45 p.m. with some gumbo and a national playoff semifinal on the line.
So there they are – the 12-1 Clemson Tigers against the 11-1 Crimson Tide from Alabama. The two teams are very much alike.
The Tigers are physical and so is Alabama. The Crimson Tide have a deep roster at virtually every position from offense to defense. Ditto for the Tigers. Clemson has one of the top coaches in the country with Dabo Swinney, the ex-Alabama wide receiver.
The team from Tuscaloosa – Alabama – has a coach of legendary stature as well with the sassy and talkative Nick Saban. He always has some swagger.
As for Clemson, the Tigers are the ACC champions, and they are ranked No. 1 in the country. Alabama is the No. 4-ranked college football team in the land, and the Crimson Tide has yet to win a championship of any kind this year.
Alabama was lucky to even get invited to the national playoffs. The Crimson Tide lost their last game against Auburn in late November, and Alabama has something to prove to everybody in the Sugar Bowl.
The Crimson Tide struggled in the second half of the regular season, winning but not impressively against LSU and Mississippi State. Alabama still hung 66 points on Ole Miss this season. The Crimson Tide also lit up Fresno State with a 41-point game.
Alabama also rocked Tennessee, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide has one of the most feared and abusive running games in the country as well with Damien Harris (906 yards, 11 touchdowns), Jalen Hurts (768 yards, eight touchdowns), Bo Scarbrough (549 yards, eight scores) and freshman Najee Harris (55 carries, 306 yards, three touchdowns).
But what Alabama does not have is a balanced offense. Hurts, the sophomore quarterback for the Crimson Tide, is more of a runner than a thrower of the pigskin. For the most part the 6-foot-2, 218pound Hurts is a one-dimensional player.
Hurts has “happy feet,” and he runs at the first sign of trouble on designed passing plays. Alabama has just two receivers with more than 13 catches this season. Junior Calvin Ridley has 55 receptions for 896 yards and three touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.
Scarbrough has 14 catches for 92 yards for Alabama. Clemson does have an advantage over the Crimson Tide with a solid running game and a high flying passing attack. Tiger junior quarterback Kelly Bryant is the cog in the offensive works with 2,678 yards passing and 13 touchdowns.
Bryant is a sneaky fast runner, too, with 173 carries for 646 yards and 11 touchdowns. Clemson has more offensive balance available with freshman running back Travis Etienne (744 yards), sophomore tailback Tavien Feaster (659 yards, seven touchdowns) and redshirt junior running back Adam Choice (312 yards, six touchdowns).
The Clemson Tigers have some heavy-hitting home run types at wide receiver as well with juniors Deon Cain (52 catches, 659 yards), Hunter Renfrow (55 catches, 571 yards) and Ray-Ray McCloud (46 receptions, 502 yards).
Alabama is going to have to play four quarters of great football to beat the No. 1-ranked Tigers from Clemson. The Crimson Tide is capable of doing that, but can they do that in the national semifinal and just a couple of blocks away from the Mississippi River?