Clemson is currently on a 16-game winning streak dating back to November 2014 and has been the No. 1 team in each of the 2015 College Football Playoff rankings. That alone is reason enough for Tiger optimism.
But Clemson was not as dominant in November as it was earlier in the season. Despite still being the nation’s top-ranked team, many doubt whether Clemson has what it takes to be national champions, especially following a bit of a sloppy performance in the ACC title game against North Carolina. Here are some reasons why that opinion is wrong and why Clemson will take home the title.
College Football Podcast: Championship Week Recap
Playoff Teams: No. 1 Clemson I No. 2 Alabama I No. 3 Michigan State I No. 4 Oklahoma
5 Reasons Clemson Will Win the College Football Playoff
1. Deshaun Watson
Michigan State has Connor Cook. Oklahoma has Baker Mayfield. Both are very good quarterbacks that will be competing in the College Football Playoff. But Clemson has arguably the best signal-caller in the nation. He has the most passing yards of the remaining quarterbacks with 3,512. He also has the best completion percentage and most yards rushing. Watson is the best player on the No. 1 team and if he is at the top of his game, the Tigers will be difficult to beat.
2. Offensive Balance
The Clemson offense is more than just Watson. The offensive line was considered the team’s biggest question mark coming into the year, but this group has allowed just 14 sacks on the year. The front five also has opened up running lanes for 1,300-yard back Wayne Gallman and the rest of the nation’s No. 23 rushing attack. Watson has a boatload of talented receivers led by Artavis Scott. This offense can win in many different ways.
3. Defensive Balance
The Tigers have the No. 23 rushing defense and the country’s No. 5 passing defense. Put those together and you have a team that ranks No. 7 in total defense. Alabama is the only team left that is higher on the total defense list. But it doesn’t stop there. Clemson can rush the passer and can force turnovers. The Tigers are behind only Boston College when it comes to tackles for lost yardage and BC also is the only team better at getting off the field on third down. This is a very complete defense.
4. Star Players
You can’t win a national championship without great players and Clemson has stars all over the field. Watson will most likely get an invite to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Gallman and Scott are consistent performers capable of making big plays. Defensively, Shaq Lawson should be on every All-American team after leading the nation with 22.5 tackles for lost yardage and registering 9.5 sacks. Fellow defensive lineman Kevin Dodd has been a handful this year as well. Safety Jayron Kearse and cornerback Mackensie Alexander could both be future first-round NFL draft picks. The Tigers have an abundance of talented players.
5. The Ability to Spread Out Alabama
Yes, Clemson must win on New Year’s Eve to get to the finals and Alabama must do the same. But most believe that Alabama is the team to beat. The Crimson Tide defense is undoubtedly very good, probably the nation’s best. But the teams that have given Alabama the most difficulty in recent years are those that can spread the field, play fast, and utilize their speed to create space against the Tide. It’s what Auburn did in scoring 44 points in the 2014 Iron Bowl. It’s what Ohio State did in knocking off Alabama in last year’s Playoff. And it’s how Ole Miss beat Bama earlier this year. Few teams play the spread game better than Dabo Swinney’s Tigers.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.