There is a reason why the Alabama Crimson Tide are a three-point favorite in the upcoming Sugar Bowl, even though they are ranked three spots lower than Clemson entering the college football playoff.
I could go into how the Crimson Tide have (slightly) better talent, better coaching and a amount of incentive here. But the real reason is because despite what you see in the polls, Bama is just plain a better team. They had one bad half this season and it cost them a conference title. Luckily for them it didn’t cost them a spot in the chase for a national title. So you better believe Nick Saban and Co. are going to take advantage of this opportunity that has been presented to them.
They may lose the national title game but there is a growing groundswell that feels as if they are going to win this No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup with Clemson, and with good reason, or rather reasons.
5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the Sugar Bowl
1. The revenge factor
That feeling of failure has been stuck in the craw of the Crimson Tide for a year now, and it’s been festering. Jalen Hurts, the quarterback, has talked publicly about how last year’s loss has motivated this team the entire offseason and has been in the back of their minds all season long. Well, here we are Tide. Here is your chance to make amends on two fronts. First, they get their shot to beat Clemson and right that wrong from last year, a painful 35-31 loss on the last second of the game. Second, they also have heard enough guff about that 26-14 loss to Auburn, which made them the first team in the short history of the College Football Playoff to come into this final four off a loss. And I’m sure they’ve heard enough about that loss from every corner of our sport to make them smell blood in the water.
2. Jalen Hurts is the better big-game QB
Both Hurts and Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant are big-time playmakers and great field generals. But Hurts has been here before as a starting quarterback and has that comfort level to lean on. Bryant is in his first year of starting and has piled up some impressive numbers, including throwing for 2,678 yards and 67 percent of his passes. But Hurts has the intangibles, including being a winner, having confidence and knowing his team is going to win no matter what. Hurts is bound for the Alabama football Hall of Fame and this is the type of game he can use to cement that destiny. As for Bryant, he’ll have his day again in the 2018 season. For now, he’s second fiddle in this one.
3. If you give Nick Saban this much time to prepare, he’ll win
This is the time of year Saban excels. He’s been given 36 days to get his team prepared to take on an offense he is very familiar with and also an offense he is chomping at the bit to get revenge on. But most importantly, nobody out-schemes the Crimson Tide maestro with this much preparation time, having gone 7-3 in his last 10 postseason games (and 5-1 in SEC title games). Look for St. Nick to throw more than a few wrinkles at the Clemson offense and surprise the Tigers with some new blitzes and down-and-distance coverage. It’ll be fun to watch.
The Red Elephants are a notorious ball-hawking defense, they always have been. They never seem to lose the turnover battle, including ranking seventh in the nation in turnover margin this season. They’ve lost just eight themselves while picking up 20 (15 interceptions, five fumbles recovered) on the defensive side. If the Tide wins the turnover war then turn the lights out on this one, especially if they get a scoop-and-score or a pick-six. And that goes double if they stay in their lane well enough to win the penalty battle as well. Clemson has to make sure to win these two vital areas of the game if it’s are going to knock off the Tide for the second straight year.
5. Alabama has the better defense
You know the old saying, defense wins championships. And yes, I know, I know, Clemson’s defense is one bad defensive unit, holding nine of its 13 opponents to 14 points or less. We all know that. But even though they might not have shown it in the loss to Auburn, the Tide have been given these 36 days to also help heal up on the defensive side. In fact, this 11-man squad that will take the field in New Orleans will be the best defense Saban trots out this season. On top of that, Alabama is the No. 2 defense in the country, allowing 257 yards per game and just 16 touchdowns all season long. Expect the Tide D to rise to the occasion in the Superdome.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.