As college football’s full attention shifts to next week’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game, ESPN analyst Marcus Spears, Paul Finebaum and Jordan Rodgers tackled a popular question surrounding Alabama-Clemson Part IV — which team has the better situation at quarterback?
It’s hard to argue against either considering the production from Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa and star freshman Trevor Lawrence have managed this season, leading their teams to unbeaten regular seasons and impressive showing in the semifinals.
“This is the quarterback Dabo Swinney felt gave him the best shot to (beat Alabama),” Spears said earlier this week during an ESPN preview show. “He knew he would have to push the ball downfield. I want to see if Dabo’s move will pay dividends for Clemson in this football game. Tua Tagovailoa is the pre-cursor to why Swinney moved to Trevor Lawrence. It’s setting up beautifully. This is going to be very interesting for Dabo Swinney and Clemson.”
During an appearance on College GameDay last weekend, Swinney vehemently denied Lawrence’s rise under center having anything to do with Alabama’s win over the Tigers last season in the Playoff.
“Alabama had zero impact on our decision (at quarterback),” Swinney said. “Our decision was based on the present moment. We don’t make decisions based on potential. We make decisions based on performance here. After four games, Trevor’s performance made the change. When you start making decisions based on potential, you starting losing your team and you’re gambling on things working out in the future.”
Finebaum believes Alabama has the edge at quarterback due to Nick Saban’s ace-in-the-hole.
“I think the x-factor here, believe it or not, is Jalen Hurts,” Finebaum said. “If something happens to one of the starters, Alabama has a plan. I know Clemson fans are watching and they’re going to come at me and say, what about the Syracuse game?’ Yeah, Clemson handled that quite well, but this is quote a bit a different situation against Alabama if something happens to Lawrence or if he’s not effective.”
The problem with that for Alabama? Lawrence has been effective all season. He hasn’t thrown an interception in 137 consecutive attempts and carved up Notre Dame’s defense with three touchdown passes during a decisive second quarter in the Cotton Bowl.
Wha’t best for this team i s to start Tua and let Jalen be involved,” SEC Network analyst Jordan Rodgers said. “For Trevor Lawrence — you start him slow to allow him to have some confidence. Dabo (benched) that upperclassman (Kelly Bryant) right away, and Lawrence was able to grow into that position when he was ready. That’s why they’re both as ready as any quarterbacks I’ve seen in the country heading into this game.”
The betting line for Monday night’s showdown continues to dwindle as of late Friday with Alabama now entering the game as a 4.5-point favorite. The Crimson Tide opened at 7.5, but the line movement is mostly from Vegas sharps who are taking the Tigers and the points.