The national championship game is set, and somehow, it feels like we always knew it would come down to this. The undefeated, top-ranked Clemson Tigers will square off against the perennial favorite Alabama Crimson Tide on Jan. 11 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Both turned in impressive performances during the College Football Playoff semifinals, but don't be fooled — what you saw from each team last week is not likely to be the case when the two teams meet.
Each team has strengths and weaknesses that weren't apparent in either semifinal game, and those are the factors that will give this game a bit of outrageousness before the clock hits zero.
Alabama won't score a touchdown through the air
The Tide came out and stunned everyone — including Michigan State — in the Cotton Bowl with an extremely effective aerial attack. Much of that was likely a concerted effort on the part of Spartans head coach ;Mark Dantonio to not allow Derrick Henry to beat his defense. That plan backfired. Looking at how teams have played against Alabama this season, you are better off letting Henry do his thing if you want to be in the game at the end. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables will see that and use it to his team's strength.
There will be two special teams touchdowns in the game
Both of these defenses are solid and that's going impact field position. That's also going to be short fields on punt returns and punters backed up in their end zones. Somebody is going to take at least one punt to the house, and don't be shocked if someone scores off a blocked punt.
Deshaun Watson will run for three scores
Watson is far and away the best dual-threat quarterback Alabama has faced this season. The last time Alabama played a quarterback this dynamic was Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, who torched the Tide for three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground to help hand the Crimson Tide their only loss. Clemson will move the ball on Alabama, and when the Tigers get inside the 20, Watson is the biggest red zone threat on the ground. The damage he can do with his arm will only create more room for him to run it when he's near the end zone.
Clemson runs away with the win
There's a reason this team hasn't lost. They are solid at every position and have the best quarterback in college football. Shaq Lawson is going to play, and he'll combine with Kevin Dodd, Carlos Watkins and D. J. Reader to be the most formidable front four Alabama's offensive line has had to face all season. The over/under is around 52.5 for this game. Clemson will score at least 40 points alone and bring a national championship home to the ACC for the second time in three seasons.