Well, here we are. The college football season concludes on Monday evening, January 11, 2016 at 8:30 PM at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Alabama and Clemson are the two teams still standing after winning their semifinal games on New Year's Eve. Clemson started the day by beating Oklahoma 37 - 17 while Alabama started slow but ended up with a blowout win versus Michigan State 38 - 0. Suffice it to say that the two best college football teams from 2015 will indeed play to decide the national championship.
A true national championship game in college football only began a few short years ago in 2014. After years of discussion around the format, it was finally decided that a 4 team “tournament” would be held with the semifinal winners playing for the title. Although there is still debate regarding the 4 teams selected in the polls, it is nice to see that the champion is finally decided on the field of play.
So let’s take a look at the two teams…
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama comes into the game with an overall record of 13 - 1. After victories in its first two games, a surprising home loss to Mississippi (43 - 37) threatened to take them out of national championship consideration. However, the Crimson Tide went on the reel off 11 straight wins which included the SEC championship game against Florida as well as the convincing victory over Michigan State in the semifinal Cotton Bowl Game.
Alabama has a storied program in college football and has won 15 previous national championships. They have a total of 29 conference championships and made an NCAA record 62 bowl appearances.
They are coached by Nick Saban who is in his 9th year at Alabama. Saban has a remarkable 99 - 18 (.846) record in his tenure with the school. He is widely considered one of the top coaches in college football.
The Crimson Tide are led by running back Derrick Henry who was this year's winner of the Heisman trophy as the top player in the nation. At quarterback is senior Jake Coker who had an excellent year culminating with a terrific passing performance in the Michigan State game. True freshman receiver Calvin Ridley is their top receiving threat while punt returner Cyrus Jones returned 4 kicks for touchdowns this season including one against Michigan State.
On defense, their front seven is far and away their biggest strength. The defensive front led the nation by allowing an average of only 2.3 yards per carry and averaged 3.57 sacks per game.
Clemson was undefeated in 2015 with a perfect 15 - 0 record. Included were wins over Notre Dame, Florida State, South Carolina and Oklahoma in the semifinal.
Clemson also has a strong history in college football. They have had a total of 5 undefeated seasons with 21 conference championships. They do have one national championship on their record which occurred in 1981. The Tigers also boast a total of 95 All-Americans and 194 NFL players who claim Clemson as their alma mater.
The team has an all-time record of 703 - 455 - 45 (.603). They are coached currently by Dabo Swinney who is in his 8th year in that role. Swinney has a Clemson record of 75 - 26 (.743).
The Tigers are led by their own Heisman candidate, sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson (who was 3rd in the Heisman vote) is a true dual threat quarterback who can beat you with his arm or his feet. He passed for 31 touchdowns and 3,699 yards and ran for another 1,032 yards and 12 touchdowns. Quite impressive.
Clemson also features running back Wayne Gallman who totalled 1,469 rush yards and 12 touchdowns. On defense, the top two playmakers to watch for Clemson will be Shaq Lawson and Ben Boulware. Lawson accounted for 10.5 sacks on the season. The secondary is littered with future first round picks and helped the defense rank as the 6th best in the country.
Overall, this looks on paper to be an exciting and extremely competitive game. Both teams have the ability to move the ball on offense and score points. Then you look at the strength of the defenses and it would not be surprising to see more of a defensive battle come out of it.
The hope here is that the score remains close and competitive (unlike the semifinal games) and the nation is treated to an exciting game that goes down to the wire.
Most betting lines are listing Alabama as a 6 to 7 point favorite at this time. Remember that Alabama made it to semifinals last season but lost to Ohio State. I’m betting they are not interested in losing again this year, especially in the final game.
Prediction: Alabama 27, Clemson 20
If you are interested in the apparel for this National Championship, check out this site:
I love college sports, especially football. You may not always agree with me, but you will see I'm passionate.