(Image Credit CFP)
There have been more than seventy small earthquakes in Oklahoma in the past week. The prevailing theory is this is not due to the fact Clemson defeated Oklahoma in one of college football’s Playoff Semifinals New Year’s Eve.
Apparently they have quite a bit of hydraulic fracturing and injection well activity going on in Oklahoma. That injected water changes the friction of naturally occurring fault lines…which can in turn cause an increased frequency in earthquakes.
I’ll readily admit I thought I’d be here picking Alabama over Oklahoma for the upcoming 2016 National Championship Game so kudos to the Clemson Tigers…but I’m not THAT shook up. Those Tigers were the talk of college football fans everywhere after their 37-17 Semifinal win over the favored Sooners…for all of 240 minutes…before the Crimson Tide’s 38-0 trouncing of Michigan State in the other Semifinal.
Alabama’s demolition of the Spartans quickly put Clemson (14-0) back in the underdog role leading into this Championship showdown Monday night in the desert of Glendale, Arizona.
The Tide (13-1) proved in its Semifinal success if you take away their punishing running game led by Heisman RB Derrick Henry you just get to deal with pin-point accurate QB Jake Coker and a nice receiving corps led by WR’s Calvin Ridley and Richard Mullaney. And then there’s their D…
If the team in Crimson has success against those in Orange like they played a week before…Orange will be the new Black…and Blue.
Alabama has the best offensive line in the country. The Tide rotates eight different defensive linemen in three slots and it’s hard to tell their All-American from the rest of the bunch. If football is indeed won at the lines of scrimmage you might already color this win in.
Clemson’s Head Coach Dabo Swinney was born and grew up in the state of Alabama. He played WR at Alabama. He spent eight years as a grad assistant and an assistant coach at Alabama. He knows what he’s up against here. This is also a huge stage. Alabama HC Nick Saban has been here a lot. Swinney…not.
In order to become the first team in major college history to finish 15-0 and gain their college’s first National Championship since 1981 (when former Alabama player and assistant coach Danny Ford was HC)…Swinney has to shake things up and out game-plan Saban. It’s that simple.
Swinney does have one advantage going in. Saban’s teams have historically had issues with up-tempo, spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks which Clemson possesses. The Tigers will not be able to run the ball straight ahead. Clemson will have to use QB Deshaun Watson, one of the nation’s best, all over the field. Swinney’s game plan has to have him in scramble-mode to confuse and confound one of the best defenses Saban has ever coached…quite the compliment. The Tigers have to be aggressive and literally spread their spread offense across the field, side-to-side in order to go forward. Watson will have to play a near-perfect game by forcing the Tide to break coverage and lose discipline. He’ll also have to go deep when he can. Alabama’s defense is almost perfect…almost all the time.
Swinney does not possess such a built-in advantage on defense. Saban will want to run the ball straight ahead initially and try to win a slugfest. If Clemson attempts Michigan State’s tactic of stuffing the box and not allowing Henry to run amok that means Coker will be aiming to throw…and we saw how happy he was to do so against the Spartans. The Tigers’ secondary isn’t shabby but if they pull back to cover the passing game and Saban then is allowed to play chess with Henry and Coker alternating run/pass Clemson will be hard-pressed to swim against a rolling Tide.
I like Alabama in this game…but if Clemson doesn’t have reasons to get discouraged early on…they could keep it interesting late. They earned much respect from a lot of us New Year’s Eve. Color me impressed with the Tigers. They truly belong in this duel in the desert.
But late Monday night Saban and the Crimson Tide will likely be up on the podium celebrating yet another National Championship for Alabama.