Alabama will be looking for its sixth national championship under Nick Saban on Monday when the Crimson Tide faces Clemson in Santa Clara. This is part four between the two teams over the last four years as this round will again go to the team from Tuscaloosa. Here’s why:
By Steve Wright
No Dexter Lawrence
While Clemson was able to control the line of scrimmage against Notre Dame without their giant defensive tackle, they will find that task much more difficult against Alabama.
Rotating in a number of guys to replace Lawrence, Clemson managed to hold Notre Dame to just 88 yards rushing and picked up six sacks of Ian Book. Book, though, is a statue in the pocket compared to Tua Tagovailoa, with the Alabama quarterback much more adept at getting outside the tackle box and making plays with his arm downfield.
At 6-foot-4 and every bit or 350 pounds, Lawrence gave Clemson an inside pass rush presence all season that they will not have against the most explosive offense they have faced all year.
Trevor Lawrence will try to do too much
Lawrence has been remarkable since he took over the quarterback position from Kelly Bryant in September. He has been able to keep Clemson moving in the right direction offensively, getting the ball in the hands of his skill position players and letting them do their thing.
His biggest asset has been his ability to move the football without committing the turnovers that you would expect to see from such a young quarterback. The true freshman has just four interceptions on the whole season, never tossing more than one in a game.
The problem for Lawrence is that he has yet to come up against an offense on the other side of the field that is as free scoring as Alabama. The Crimson Tide will score points in bunches, forcing Lawrence to try to push the ball downfield more than he has all season and opening his arm up to the sort of mistakes Clemson can’t have and still win this game.
Tua is healthy enough
While Tagovailoa may still not be fully healthy after his ankle issues he proved against Oklahoma that the injury isn’t going to limit what he can do on the football filed in any major way. This is bad news for Clemson.
While it is the Alabama passing game that has won plaudits this season, it is actually the running attack that has been the backbone of Alabama’s success. Alabama is deep, very deep, at the running back position, with the likes of Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, and Damien Harris, all fresh and ready to go after combining to rip through the Oklahoma defensive front for 200 yards.
Each of the backs does something a little different and that is a key here. The Clemson defense line is the best in the country, but there is going to be a back in the Crimson Tide backfield that will find a way to do damage. That will allow Tagovailoa time in the passing game, time that he will use to quarterback his team to another national title win.