Roster changes make Alabama and Clemson's national title rematch a fresh affair

Tricia Pearson
January 9, 2017

Spoiler alert: a few of us think there won't be an Alabama repeat.

"Deshaun Watson has played big in every game since he's been at Clemson", Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. I think that's something that's helped him.

Taller receivers have given Alabama issues this year. It was a photo of him on the turf in tears in the Alabama game, and read: "I didn't come this far to only come this far". Meanwhile, Hurts and the Alabama offense have been mired in a slump, including an uninspired performance against Washington in which Hurts went 7-for-14 for only 57 yards. Why would they change? They only lost the game by five point naps have key players that played in that game last year back this year.

I feel a pick against Alabama may be ill-advised.

But just because Alabama had a dominant season, doesn't mean the title is automatically theirs as they go into Monday's game facing a battle-tested Clemson.

"I couldn't find a couple more yards".

Gameday Arrives For Clemson, Alabama

This is also the first time two teams have met for a rematch of a Division I College Football Championship, made even more interesting (or boring, perhaps) because, well, they just played each other past year! The Crimson Tide can ride its running game and defense to victory, but when the big throws have to be made if Alabama falls behind, it will be hard to trust the young Hurts. And that was without WR Mike Williams, who missed nearly all of the 2015 season because of a neck injury.

Don't get me wrong: I like Clemson.

Watching film of Williams led to SEC Network and analyst Cole Cubelic making this statement on Twitter, "I would do everything possible to avoid leaving Clemson WR Mike Williams (in one-on-one situations) if I were Alabama". They're too big, and they have five or six first-round National Football League draft picks on that defense. Many of their experienced backups have easily slid into the starting role and will have a big impact on Monday night though, such as linebackers Dorian O'Daniel and Kendall Joseph, corner Ryan Carter, safety Jadar Johnson and left guard Taylor Hearn. Williams may have matched those figures previous year, but he also earned an honor that he would not have achieved last season. Jonathan Allen and company are relentless pressuring the quarterback. He's 31-3 as a starter and has led his team to back-to-back national championship games while also actually being a student-athlete rather than just masquerading as one.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has seen firsthand what Watson is capable of and he knows that his top ranked defense will be facing its toughest task of the season. Not this time. I know how good Watson and his receivers are, but that Alabama defensive front is more than good. For Clemson, their defensive line has to dominate. Greg Huegel will need to get his kickoffs into the end zone and make his field goals for the Tigers to win a game that should be lower scoring than last year's 45-40 shootout.

This time may be a different story though as Watson and the Tigers are bigger, stronger and faster on both sides of the ball than a year ago. He stretched daringly to catch a pass in the end zone, but he collided with the base of the goalpost.

The Crimson Tide have three running backs averaging at least 6.6 yards per carry in Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Josh Jacobs. Since the Peach Bowl, Kiffin, the new head coach at Florida Atlantic University, has been relieved of his duties as Alabama's coordinator, and Steve Sarkisian will be calling the plays. "If they do that, you're probably getting beat". Forcing the Tide into third-and-long is vital. They've not only won their last 26 games but only three of them have been less than one score.

U.S. wins gold in World Junior Hockey Championship
This was just one out of a bunch of incredible performances Chabot turned in on his way to capturing tournament MVP honours. Of note: the Ottawa Senators' Alexandre Daigle was one of five Canadians to reach double-digits in scoring.

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