SAN JOSE, Calif. — We’re only a few hours from kickoff for Alabama-Clemson IV, so we have to get all of our thoughts out now.
Both Alabama and Clemson are incredibly talented, well coached and undefeated, but this matchup has the potential the be lopsided because of how explosive Alabama’s offense is. No team in the country has this explosive of an offense with the ability to hold other teams in check defensively.
Clemson is explosive on offense, but I don’t see them being able to win a shootout with Alabama. Clemson’s defensive front is as talented as they come, but its secondary is suspect and I believe Tua Tagovailoa will carve them up.
Furthermore, this is the game where people will finally give Deshaun Watson the proper respect he deserves as a college quarterback. Clemson is a talented team and a top program, but it was Watson’s brilliance that kept Clemson in the game they lost in 2015.
When they beat Alabama in 2016, it was Watson’s toughness and moxie that willed the Tigers to victory.
That’s not a shot at Dabo Swinney, his coaching staff, the players or Clemson’s program. But we saw what Clemson looked like against Alabama without Watson in the Playoff semifinal last year. They couldn’t score a touchdown.
Granted, freshman Trevor Lawrence is a better passer than Kelly Bryant, but he lacks the overall mobility of Watson and Bryant. If you’re going to beat Alabama, you need your quarterback to be able to run for key first downs on 3rd-and-7 or pick up yards on 2nd-and-long to make third down manageable.
Will Lawrence be able to do that? We’ll see.
Frankly, this game comes down to one matchup: Clemson’s offensive line vs. Alabama’s defensive front.
Will Clemson’s offensive line be able to hold up against Alabama’s defensive line to give Lawrence time to set his feet and make throws? Or will Quinnen Williams, Raekwon Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Anfernee Jennings and others get after Lawrence?
I don’t believe Clemson’s offensive line will win this battle. Look for Williams and company to have their way with Clemson’s offensive line later tonight.
Alabama fans should enjoy this group because there’s a chance that all three — Williams, Davis and Buggs — will be gone after this season. Buggs is definitely gone because he’s out of eligibility. Williams will likely be a top-10 pick, and Davis has a chance to be a first-round pick as well.
Just like Da’Ron Payne put on a show during the Playoff last season against Clemson, I expect Williams to put a cap on what has been an incredible season.
Alabama’s front has been so dominant this season that they haven’t had to do a lot of blitzing. Look for Williams, Davis and Buggs to pressure Lawrence all night and make him uncomfortable.
If that happens, things could get really ugly for Clemson on Monday night.