2017 College Football Playoff Championship Game prediction

Movie quote of the day:

“They’ve done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.”

– Brian Fantana, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004)

CFBNC

New Year’s Six bowl record: 4-2 (66.7 percent)
2016 record: 121-51 (70.3 percent)
All-time record: 232-115 (66.8 percent)

College Football Playoff Championship Game presented by AT&T
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 1 Alabama
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Fla.
Line: ALA -6.5

Well, we have a rematch of last year’s national championship. Except this time the roles are reversed. This time around, Alabama is looking to become the first team to finish 15-0 since the University of Pennsylvania did it in 1897 – and Clemson is the team that has the blemish on its resume and has battled adversity all year long. I’m looking forward to this game. Let’s take a closer look at each team:

Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after winning the 2016 Peach Bowl.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after winning the 2016 Peach Bowl.

This is the most talented team I think Nick Saban has had since he’s been in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide have dominated their schedule and they do just about everything right. They’re starting to run the ball extremely well, they have grown men in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and they’re incredible at stopping the run and getting after the quarterback defensively. For as great as Alabama is, there is one area that could really affect its chances of winning another national title, and that’s Jalen Hurts. He’s been great all year as a freshman, but Hurts can’t play like he did against Washington if Alabama is going to win (50 percent for 57 yards, and just 50 rushing yards). I think some of his struggles against Washington can be attributed to Lane Kiffin – who sounds like was halfway out the door and thinking about life at FAU. With Kiffin now gone and Steve Sarkisian as Alabama’s new offensive coordinator, I don’t expect Hurts’ struggles to continue. For Alabama to win, Hurts and the Crimson Tide just need to relax and play their game – which is play great defense and special teams, limit turnovers, and run the ball effectively. If they do that, they should have no problems getting another national title.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates with quarterback Deshaun Watson after winning the 2016 Fiesta Bowl.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates with quarterback Deshaun Watson after winning the 2016 Fiesta Bowl.

Clemson has stunned me the last few weeks. I didn’t take the Tigers seriously during the regular season because they looked terrible. However, ever since the loss to Pitt, Clemson has been playing much better – outscoring opponents in its last four games 164-55 – and Deshaun Watson has had 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions during the same stretch. The Tigers are a much better team than what they were back in early November. Now, I said it before the game against Washington, but let’s recap anyway. There’s five things a team must have in order to beat Alabama: 1. Great coaching, 2. An offense that can spread it out and score a lot of points, 3. A mobile, competent quarterback that can sling the ball, 4. Excellent weapons on the perimeter, 5. Play great defense – Clemson checks all those boxes. Also, everyone wants to talk about how great Alabama is in the trenches, but don’t overlook Clemson. I don’t think the Tigers are as good as Alabama in the trenches, but it’s not much of a drop off. For Clemson to win, the Tigers are going to have to throw the ball as well as they did in last year’s title game because Alabama’s weakness defensively is in its secondary. Deshaun Watson put on a show last year – and that was without his best wide receiver, Mike Williams. If Watson can repeat his performance from last year, Clemson has a shot.

Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium is ready to host the national championship.
Raymond James Stadium – home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – is ready to host the national championship.

Once again, this game will be decided if Deshaun Watson and Clemson’s wide receivers can find holes in Alabama’s secondary because it’s going to be very difficult to get a run game going against Alabama’s front seven. The Tigers were able to do that last year even without Mike Williams – who will be a top-10 draft pick in April. Alabama’s pass rush is terrific, but I think Watson’s mobility will help him avoid pressure and make plays through the air. Clemson has had revenge on its mind for the last year and everyone is talking about how now they get another shot to prepare for Alabama, but that also means Nick Saban gets another shot at preparing for Clemson – which gives Alabama more of an edge than Clemson, in my opinion. I don’t think this game will be as high scoring as last year. I expect both defenses to show up, get some stops, and keep this a fairly low-scoring game, but I trust Alabama’s defense more than Clemson. The Crimson Tide have too much talent defensively and I think they force Clemson to make too many mistakes on their way to another national championship. I think it’ll be a close game, but a late Alabama score will make the score look worse than what it really was.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 21

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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