San Jose, Calif.—Good morning from San Jose!
The preliminaries are done and it’s time to get down to business.
Here are five reasons why No. 1 Alabama will beat No. 2 Clemson in Monday night’s CFP national championship game:
1—Tua Tagovailoa: After a month on the shelf while recovering from a high ankle sprain, the sophomore quarterback absolutely undressed the Oklahoma defense in the CFP semifinal played at the Orange Bowl. Tua completed 24 of 27 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He’s only five hours away from home (Hawaii) and a reported 400-plus family members will be in attendance Monday night. There will continue to be questions about his ankle and how it will hold up under the relentless pass rush of Clemson. He admitted that it was a bit sore after the Oklahoma game but showed no limp when he came to media day here on Saturday.
Let me simply say this: If Tua can go the full 60 minutes without pain or discomfort, Alabama will win the game.
2—Nick Saban: This is an all-too-familiar position for the future Hall of Fame Coach. Alabama is playing its 77th game under Saban as the nation’s No. 1 team. It is also the seventh time in the past 10 seasons that Alabama and Saban have played in the national championship game. In the previous six appearances they are 5-1, with the only loss being to Clemson for the 2016 national championship. A victory would give Saban his seventh national championship (six at Alabama, one at LSU), which breaks the tie for all-time titles with Paul “Bear” Bryant.
3—Extraordinary receivers: Under Saban Alabama has always a big-time wide receiver like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, or Amari Cooper. This—and I don’t think there can be much debate here—is the deepest, most talented group of wide receivers Alabama has had in my time of covering SEC football. Consider: Alabama has four of the top 18 receivers in the SEC: Jerry Jeudy (63 catches), Jaylen Waddle (43), Henry Ruggs (45), and DeVonta Smith (36). Throw in tight end Irv Smith (40) and there are a lot of moving parts in the Alabama passing game.
4—Quennen Williams: Nick Saban has had a lot of great players at the nose guard position in his 3-4 defense. Williams is as good as any of them. At 6-4, 295 he is strong, incredibly slippery and virtually unblockable. This season he finished second in the SEC in tackles for loss (85) only to Kentucky All-American Josh Allen (118). A year ago he couldn’t get on the field but this season he is the Outland Trophy winner which goes to the nation’s best interior lineman. He could also be the No. 1 or No. 2 player taken in April’s NFL draft. Putting pressure on Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s freshman quarterback, is an important part the Alabama game plan. Williams will be called upon to do that.
5—They’re Alabama: A former Alabama head coach once told me: “The thing that makes coaching at Alabama so special is that all of the kids who come there expect to win every single game. They KNOW going into the game that they are supposed to win. More importantly, the team on the other side of the ball knows Alabama is supposed to win.”
Against Clemson Alabama will have a chance to win its 18th national championship overall and its sixth since 2009. In the modern era of college football, where everybody has money to hire coaches, build facilities, and go recruiting, such dominance is not supposed to be possible.
But nobody sent Alabama the memo. The Crimson Tide fully expects to be holding up the CFP national championship trophy on Monday night. They view it as their birthright.