No. 1 Alabama meets No. 2 Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. It’s the fourth consecutive Playoff matchup between the two powerhouses, and third championship game in four years.
Alabama (14-0) is looking for back-to-back national championships. The Crimson Tide can win a sixth national title under Nick Saban, who can pass Bear Bryant with a seventh national title for his career. The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 28-0 lead in a 45-34 win against Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa passed for 318 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.
Clemson (14-0) can win its second national championship in three years under Dabo Swinney. The Tigers have won one of the last three Playoff meetings against the Crimson Tide, and freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence is coming off a three-touchdown performance in a 30-3 blowout against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
It’s going to be another classic heavyweight championship fight. With that in mind, here’s a look at how those teams stack up:
How to watch Clemson vs. Alabama
The College Football Playoff championship game can be seen on ESPN at 8 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7. The game will be televised nationally and can be streamed on WatchESPN.com.
Clemson-Alabama betting trends
— Alabama opened as a 6.5-point favorite, but the line has dropped to minus-6. It’s the first time the Crimson Tide have been favored by less than 10 points in a game this season.
— Both teams were 8-6 ATS this season, but neither team was an underdog.
— In the three previous Playoff meetings, Alabama is 2-1 ATS. The Crimson Tide failed to cover as a 6.5-favorite in the 2016 and 2017 Playoff championship games, but they covered as a 3.5-favorite in last year’s Playoff semifinal.
Three keys for Clemson-Alabama
— Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence. This is a dynamic quarterback matchup that could be next year’s Heisman Trophy race, but the question is how those quarterbacks fare against defenses stingy against the pass. Alabama (178.4 yards per game) allowed 17 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Clemson (183.9) allowed 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions. It’s going to come down to the quarterback who extends plays with his legs and does not turn the ball over in the face of aggressive defensive lines.
— Tempo. In the three previous meetings, Alabama ran 71, 66 and 66 plays, respectively. Clemson ran 85, 99 and 70 plays. The 99-play game was the one Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to a 35-31 victory in the 2017 championship game. If Clemson pushes the tempo into the mid-80 play range, it will get interesting.
— First-quarter punch. Alabama knocked out Oklahoma with a 28-0 punch in the first quarter and forced the Sooners to play catch up. The Crimson Tide have outscored Clemson 38-24 in the first half in the last three meetings, but the second half that advantage is 62-57 in Alabama’s favor. The Tigers scored just three points in the second half last season.
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Clemson-Alabama stat that matters
Yards per passing attempt. Tagovailoa is second nationally with 11.4 yards per passing attempt. Lawrence averages 8.0 yards per attempt. Both teams have talented receivers all over the place. It’s the quarterback who can push the ball down the field in the vertical passing game more often who will be the difference maker.
This is the best quarterback matchup in the four years of this rivalry. Look for both teams to establish the run early, with Alabama keying in on Travis Etienne. The Crimson Tide also will test the middle of Clemson’s defense, which held up without Dexter Lawrence against Notre Dame. There will be big-time plays and momentum swings as usual, and this has the makings to be the most dramatic game in the series yet. It’s Tagovailoa — just like last year’s game on this stage against Georgia — who makes the game-changing touchdown pass in crunch time.
Clemson-Alabama final score
Alabama 34, Clemson 31