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Herbstreit previews Alabama-Clemson, thoughts on Trevor Lawrence

No player in Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game will be more important to success than Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s freshman quarterback who is coming off a three-touchdown outing against Notre Dame.

Calm under pressure in his first-ever Playoff appearance, the elite passer helped the Tigers dominate one of the nation’s top defenses, further strengthening his growing confidence within the Clemson offense according to College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

Herbstreit provided a few early thoughts on Alabama-Clemson during Tuesday’s appearance on SportsCenter. Before the season, Herbstreit accurately predicted Alabama-Clemson Part IV in the national championship game.

“I don’t think the big stage is going to make (Lawrence) up tight or nervous,” Herbstreit said. “He plays with unprecedented poise. The big thing will be the way Tosh Lupoi and Nick Saban create ways to disguise pressures. They do a very good job of showing one thing pre-snap and then going to another. If there’s one area you’ll see Dabo Swinney and his offensive staff come up with a plan, it’ll be to make sure those late blitzes don’t affect him.

“You’ve got to be able to avoid costing yourself the game by turning over the football. Trevor Lawrence was inserted for Alabama. I think (Clemson) was envisioning going up against this Alabama team with Trevor Lawrence’s ability to stretch the field. This is the matchup we’ve been waiting for and we’re excited about it.”

Clemson All-American defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence likely won’t play against the Crimson Tide after failing a drug test before Christmas, which forced him to miss the Cotton Bowl. He has since appealed his suspension to the NCAA.

“He’s a great player and a big force in the middle,” Herbstreit said. “He’s healthy this year and that wasn’t the case last season when he was (inaudible), but if you watch the Notre Dame game, Brent Venables and Dabo Swinney have recruited really well at that specific position. Guys like Albert Huggins have played a lot of football, but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as people are making it sound.

“It affects the depth because they like to rotate, but if anybody can handle a loss like Lawrence, it’s Clemson.”

Alabama is a 6.5-point favorite against Clemson, the lowest point spread for any game involving the unbeaten Crimson Tide this season.

“The freshman quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, has done a fantastic job for them all year long,” Saban said this week. “They’ve got great balance on offense in terms of their ability to run and throw and a talented group of receivers. Their defense is one of the best defensive teams in the country in lots of different categories, and they’ve got a really good front seven, and they’re very well-coached. This is certainly a complete team.”

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