Heading into college football’s home stretch, it looks like Alabama and Clemson could meet for a fourth consecutive season in the Playoff.
Two of the nation’s four remaining unbeatens after 10 weeks, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are ranked 1-2 in every major poll and they’re obvious selections in those spots. No teams have been more dominant this fall and both have flourished with first-year starting quarterbacks at the helm.
And if there’s a team that can upend Alabama for the national title, it’s Clemson according to College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
“When the season started, if (we) were talking about who could beat Alabama, I would’ve said Clemson was the only team athletically that could beat them,” Herbstreit said during Tuesday’s appearance on Get Up!. “At the end of this season, you still say Clemson has the pieces. Clemson lost to Alabama last year in a low-scoring game in the semifinal. They went and had a quarterback come in named Trevor Lawrence. Everybody was up in arms about Kelly Bryant being benched and going with this freshman, but that decision had nothing to do with this year in my opinion and everything to do with last year’s loss to Alabama.
“If you’re wondering about Trevor Lawrence, that’s why he’s their quarterback. When they walked off that field with Kelly Bryant as their quarterback, they probably collectively said to themselves, Trevor Lawrence has to come in next year and throw it down field. He can throw it to the left. He can throw it the right. He can make very throw. Trevor Lawrence was intentionally brought in to be the guy to give them a quarterback to try to beat Alabama. We’re a few weeks away from seeing if that could be a possibility. But on paper, athlete for athlete, Clemson is the team who could give Alabama a challenge.”
A hypothetical betting line for Clemson-Alabama was revealed this week with the Crimson Tide being favored. Alabama and Clemson faced off in Playoff title games in 2016 and 2017, with the Crimson Tide winning the first before Clemson returned the favor. The Tigers met Alabama in the playoff semifinal Sugar Bowl last season, and the Crimson Tide emerged with a 24-6 victory.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney were both aware prior to last season’s Sugar Bowl that it may not be the last time they coach against each other with the playoff trophy on the line.
“It wouldn’t be surprising to me,” Saban said. “I’m not much on making predictions. But each year you have they have a lot of good players. I think we have a lot of good players, and we have a lot of good, young players. But each year you lose a part of your team and guys go off for the draft. You have your seniors that have done a good job for you. Everybody has roles that they have to take on next season. So it’s almost like you’re rebuilding your team each and every year, in my opinion, and it’s a totally new challenge as to how people embrace the roles that they have, leadership.
“So, hopefully, we will be able to continue to have a team that can compete at a very high standard and have opportunities like this in the future. It’s certainly a goal of the program.”