The stage is set and the teams are preparing. The 2019 college football season comes to an end on Tuesday night, when the clock hits 0:00 on Alabama v. Clemson IV. These have been the top two programs in college football since the playoff era began in 2014.
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The titans first met in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship game, where Alabama pulled out a 45-40 ballgame. They then met one year later in the National Championship, where DeShaun Watson cemented himself as a living legend as he led a last minute, game-winning touchdown drive to win the game 35-31. The two teams last met in the 2018 Sugar Bowl, this time for a spot in the National Championship, and the Tide overwhelmed a Kelly Bryant led Clemson team 24-6. Alabama then took down the Georgia Bulldogs in the Championship game 26-23, during which Tua Tagovailoa became a legend in Tuscaloosa. Fast forward a year, Clemson and Alabama are both undefeated at 14-0, and the #1 and #2 teams in the country.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
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Coached by Nick Saban, Alabama has been the favorite for the entire year and remains the favorite going into this game. On offense, they are led by their sophomore quarterback and Heisman runner-up, Tua Tagovailoa. The sophomore put together an outstanding 2018 campaign, during which he threw for 3,671 yards 41TD and 4INT. He has a variety of weapons to throw to, which include: Biletnikoff Winner Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III, Irv Smith, and DeVonta Smith. The ground game has been terrific, they possess a three-headed monster of Damien Harris, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs. These guys are all powerful, and they play behind an elite offensive line. On defense, they are led by defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The front seven plays physical and they can get to the quarterback. The secondary is probably the weak link of this team, they have shown some inconsistencies.
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With the retirement of Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney is now the undisputed second-best coach in the country. He has an opportunity to make his case for the top spot. Talent-wise, his roster matches Alabama player for player. On offense, they are led by true freshman quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence took over for Kelly Bryant earlier this season, and has thrown for 2,933 yards 27TD and 4INT. He has matured as the season has progressed and is now playing like a savvy veteran. He throws to another elite group of receivers that include: Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Armani Rodgers, Hunter Renfrow, and Derion Kendrick. The rushing attack is one of the best in college football. They do an excellent job of rotating backs, with the primary runner being Travis Etienne. Spelling Etienne are Lyn-J Dixon, Adam Choice, and Tavien Feaster. The defense starts with a DOMINANT defensive front. They will be playing without future first-rounder Dexter Lawrence, but they are led by a three time All-American Christian Wilkins. This unit stuffs the run game, and they can get to the quarterback and can wreck opposing offensive lines. The secondary improved down the stretch, they are athletic and can run with the Alabama receivers.
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This game will come down to who controls the line of scrimmage and who can capitalize when put in position to make plays. I expect the Clemson defensive line to wear down the Alabama offense. They will be in the backfield early and often, and they will force Tagovailoa to make mistakes, which he has been prone to make when playing elite defenses. One of the flaws in his game exposed by Georgia is that he misses a lot of underneath coverage when the pocket collapses. Clemson Defensive Coordinator, Brent Venables will devise a game plan to force Tagovailoa into those situations, which will give Clemson opportunities to capitalize after bad plays. On the flip side, Nick Saban is going to try his damndest to put stress on the true freshman Lawrence. He is going to attempt to take away their run game, which will force Lawrence to win the game with his arm. At that point, Alabama can throw a blitz party, which does not bode well for the Clemson offense. With that being said, I think Clemson will win the line of scrimmage, and I think they will be able to hold off the Alabama defensive front, giving Lawrence time to find open receivers downfield. Clemson wins the football game 38-35.
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