For the fourth straight year, Alabama and Clemson will meet in the College Football Playoff. And for the third time in the last four years, the Crimson Tide and Tigers will battle for the CFP National Championship. With the rest of the 2018-19 bowl games in the books, now is our chance to take a first look at the national title showdown between the two teams that have completely dominated the CFP era.
There will be plenty of breakdowns and analysis to come as new rivals prepare to square off Monday night in Santa Clara, California. For now, let’s take a look at some early picks and predictions for the big game. Here’s the direction our CBS Sports panel of college football experts are leaning with a few days to go. Picks are subject to change ahead of the national championship.
Why Alabama will win: I’ve said all season long that I felt Alabama was playing at a different level than the rest of the college football world, and I haven’t seen anything that would make me reconsider such an opinion. That’s not to say Clemson isn’t a terrific team; there’s a reason I’m picking it to cover the spread. Clemson is on a level of its own just like Alabama, but I just don’t think that level is the same one Alabama’s on. In a season that’s been as chalky as chalk can be, now isn’t the time to finally go against that chalk. — Tom Fornelli
Why Clemson will win: This game comes down to the trenches, and one simple question: Do you trust Clemson minus Dexter Lawrence or do you trust Alabama’s offensive line minus Deonte Brown? I’ll take the Tigers defensive front, due in large part to the depth and versatility guys like Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant bring to the entire unit. They will draw plenty of eyeballs, which makes the job of Albert Huggins and Nyles Pinckney easier than the job of Lester Cotton — Brown’s replacement at left guard along the Crimson Tide offensive line. The Tigers will spend plenty of time in the backfield, disrupt plays before they get started and put more pressure on Tua Tagovailoa than any that he’s seen this year — Georgia included. Lawrence has been this year’s freshman quarterback sensation, and he will lead the Tigers to the title. — Barrett Sallee