Who do you like in the national title game?

by Gary Shelton on January 1, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Sunday, 6 a.m.

I watched Alabama, and I liked the Crimson Tide.

Why, they may have never had a better defense. If they played until next Thursday, Washington wasn't going to get into the end zone again. Nick Saban has fashioned the closest thing to a dynasty we have seen in college football. Makers of the championship trophy must be tempted to put a dash of crimson into the award.

Then I watched Clemson, and I liked Clemson, too.

Deshaun Watson should have won the Heisman Trophy. Dabo Swinney is on the verge of becoming one of America's favorite coaches. The Tigers have never been better than they are right now.

So who wins?

Besides the fans, that is.

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Yeah, yeah. You can grumble that you saw this game. But is there any doubt that these are the best teams playing college football today? Is there anyone else you think is more deserving to be in the national title?

Before watching Clemson rip Ohio State so badly you wonder if Urban Meyer knows there are 11 players per time, I was convinced that no one could stand up to the attrition of Alabama's defense. No, the offense isn't that good with their freshman quarterback Jalen Hurd, but the Tide wears opponents down with that sensational defense. Their game plan? Making the other team's offense struggle more than yours.

But Clemson was so good against the Buckeyes, it gave you pause. What if Watson can create enough room to put pressure on Alabama's offense? What if Mike Williams and Wayne Gallman can keep the Tide off-balance?

Clemson's defense hasn't looked this good all year. They shut out Meyer, which had never been done before. They harassed J.T. Barrett (127 yards). They made the Buckeyes look like the fourth-best team in a four-team tournament. Fifth-best, Penn State might say.

Then, there is the Watson factor. Any quarterback who can run the way he can can find creases in the defense. He moves well enough to lessen the Bama pass rush. He is elusive enough to let his receivers get open. He is strong enough to make the Tide pay for every missed tackle.

Here's how I see it:

The best unit on the field, the Alabama defense.

Second best? The Clemson offense.

Third best? The Clemson defense.

Fourth best? The Alabama offense.

That means it's going to be close. It'll be a game that depends on match-ups and breaks, on turnovers and field position, on big returns and silly penalties. It won't matter what Clemson did against Pitt or Alabama did against Florida. It'll be decided in the final quarter.

Clemson is good enough defensively to force the game to Jalen Hurt's hands. If they stand up to the Alabama run game, they'll do okay against Alabama's offense. That should give Watson a shot.

In the end? Yeah, I'd pick Alabama...barely. College football is still a coach's game, and no one casts a bigger shadow than Saban.

But Swinney is getting closer.

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