Alabama vs. Clemson: Prediction for title game

Posted at 9:52 PM, Jan 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-11 22:12:50-05

The Alabama Crimson Tide are college football royalty. The undefeated Clemson Tigers want to see how that crown fits.

On Monday, No. 2 Alabama (13-1) takes on No. 1 Clemson (14-0) in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

The Crimson Tide will look for their fourth national championship since 2009, while the Tigers will seek their first national title since 1981.

Who brings home the hardware? Here are three questions and a prediction for Monday night's matchup.

1. Can Clemson slow Heisman-winner Henry?

Clemson's rushing defense is one of the nation better units; the Tigers allow 124.4 yards per game, the 18th-best mark in the FBS. But the Tigers haven't encountered a running back close to the caliber of 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who has rushed for over 2,000 yards this season.

Henry has rushed for over 180 yards in five of his last eight games. Can Clemson contain the 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior, or will Henry prove too physical and elusive for the Tigers?

2. Can Bama deal with Deshaun Watson?

On Saturday, ESPN analyst Mark May noted the Crimson Tide haven't faced a quarterback this season like Clemson's Deshaun Watson. The Heisman finalist is the definition of a dual-threat QB, passing for 3,699 yards and 31 touchdowns while rushing for 1,032 yards and 12 TDs this season.

But it's also true that Watson and the Tigers have yet to face a defense like Alabama's, as the Tide have the nation's best rushing defense and are tied for 11th in the nation with 18 interceptions. Will Watson be able to work his magic and keep Clemson perfect, or will -- ahem -- the Tide turn in Bama's favor?

3. Can the Tigers survive another turnover battle?

Turnovers are typically the most telling stat in football. It's a simple fact of the gridiron that it's difficult to win when you give the ball away more than you take it away from your opponent.

That's why Clemson's unblemished record is so surprising: The Tigers have a minus-1 turnover margin this season, tied for 74th out of 127 FBS teams. The Crimson Tide are plus-9 on the season. 

Clemson has lost the turnover battle six times this season but has gone 6-0 in those games. If the Tigers lose that battle Monday night -- and they are likely to do so -- will they be able to make it 7-0 against the best defensive unit in college football?


I really want to pick the Tigers in this game. Clemson's a fun team to watch with an energetic young coach in Dabo Swinney -- and frankly, watching the Crimson Tide pile up championships is boring.

But looking at Alabama's defense, I just can't pull the trigger. Clemson may take an early lead as Bama takes time to adjust to Watson and the Tigers' up-tempo style. But expect the Crimson Tide's defense begin to take over before the first half ends and make Watson's life miserable throughout the second half.

On offense, Henry and senior QB Jake Coker will do enough to complement the defense and get coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide their fourth title in seven seasons.

Alabama 21, Clemson 10