National championship clash puts spotlight on defense

National championship clash puts spotlight on defense

Clemson's D will have to give max effort on every play and limit Alabama from the big play that can soak the life out of a unit. Pick your reference point.

Swinney has been at Clemson for 14 years and the head coach since 2008. "The legacy is that he's leaving this place and this program in better shape than it was when he got here". "I'm from the '70s and '80s, man".

Of all the opponents Alabama played in winning titles under Saban - Texas, LSU, Notre Dame and Clemson last year - none of them posed the threat heading into the game that this year's Clemson team does. But Rocky won the rematch.

Let's assume that the higher seeds all win in week one.

The Tigers didn't have a national brand, but Swinney has built one. "Regardless of the situation of or who you are, you're going to have haters and you're going to have people that like you".

And once again Playoff Fan Central is open Saturday and Sunday noon to 8 p.m. No, not even a blowout either way. "Clemson is trying to get to that point".

"Last year it was a little bit of a tough management with the number of time you had between the season and the first playoff game and then the time we had from the playoff game, and I thought our team was a little bit exhausted", Saban said. Alabama's special teams scored four touchdowns this season. We've seen Nick Saban doused with Gatorade enough times.

In other words, Swinney's claim is probably on safe ground.

"We're still writing our legacy", Allen said. Not only will Watson need to have a short memory if he has a miscue or two, but the Clemson defense must limit the Tide offense-no matter how good of field position the unit may have after a Tigers miscue. Both, though, are prepared for what they missed last season against Alabama. Defensive end Jonathan Allen scoops up fumbles and national awards at about an equal pace. Not to shortchange UConn's unreal accomplishments (four straight, six of last eight), but it is much more hard to build a football dynasty than one in basketball, men or women.

Saban usually has better players than everyone else, an advantage he readily acknowledges.

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The Tigers entered the postseason pegged at No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings after posting a 12-1 SU record during the regular season, with the only blemish on that mark coming in a stunning 43-42 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers in mid-November. The players didn't quite understand the urgency of every play in a national championship game. Or Williams, who has nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss.

Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said scoring on defense can't necessarily be coached, but it's a product on preparation and opportunity.

Griffin, a senior, has more experience but has been inconsistent throughout his career.

Williams will pose a unique challenge for Alabama cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett.

With another year under his belt, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to take fire after a long, grueling season. Smith-Schuster was held to one catch. Even with his right tackle getting whipped on almost every play, Coker completed 16 of 25 passes for 335 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Standout defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, shutdown corner MacKenzie Alexander and middle linebacker B.J. Goodson aren't simply replaceable in just one year.

If Alabama blows out Clemson, then this Crimson Tide team just might be regarded as the best team ever. To do so in dominating fashion would be just about unprecedented.

TideSports.com's take: "I don't think it helps Alabama necessarily that Lane Kiffin is gone".

"What I see is pretty much same thing as past year", Ridley said. "I use the term clutter sometimes".

But a blowout either way is unlikely.

The nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams will meet for the 17th time in the history of the two programs, with the Crimson Tide owning a 13-3 all-time advantage in the series. "I don't think they're going to do much different". Clemson gave Alabama all it could handle in last season's title game before succumbing 45-40.