Alabama vs. Clemson: Breaking Down CFP National Championship 2019 Matchup

Jake RillContributor IIDecember 30, 2018

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates the win over the Oklahoma Sooners during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Alabama and Clemson have been the best teams in college football over the past several years, so it's not much of a surprise that the schools will again face off in the College Football Playoff National Championship this season.

This is the fourth straight year that the Crimson Tide and the Tigers have played in the CFP, and January 7 is set to be the third time during that span they will contest the national title. The CFP National Championship starts at 8 p.m. ET and can be viewed on ESPN.

Alabama leads the all-time series against Clemson 14-4, and it has won 14 of the schools' past 15 meetings. However, the last time the teams met in the CFP National Championship, at the end of the 2016 season, the Tigers won 35-31.

The Crimson Tide notched a 24-6 win over the Tigers in last season's Sugar Bowl, which was a CFP semifinal matchup.

               

How Alabama Got Here

Alabama hasn't played many close games this season, and that includes its CFP semifinal game. The Crimson Tide scored 28 consecutive points to build an early lead in their 45-34 win over Oklahoma in Saturday's Orange Bowl.

The only time that the unbeaten Crimson Tide (14-0) have been in a precarious situation was during the SEC Championship Game. Alabama scored 14 fourth-quarter points to rally for a 35-28 come-from-behind victory over Georgia, led by backup quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was deputizing for an injured Tua Tagovailoa.

Prior to that, the Tide rolled through their regular-season schedule. They won each of their first 12 games by at least 22 points, which included victories over ranked conference rivals Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State.

Since Alabama lost to Clemson at the end of the 2016 season, the Tide have lost one game—a 26-14 loss to Auburn on Nov. 25, 2017. But they bounced back from that loss with victories over Clemson and Georgia in last season's College Football Playoff.

Heading into the 2018 season, Alabama had a quarterback battle between Tagovailoa and Hurts. The Tide decided to go with the sophomore Tagovailoa, and it was a smart decision. He has passed for 3,353 yards, 37 touchdowns and only four interceptions, finishing second in voting for the Heisman Trophy for his efforts.

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 29: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after the win over the Oklahoma Sooners during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Miami, Flo
Mark Brown/Getty Images

In the Orange Bowl, Tagovailoa completed 24 of his 27 pass attempts for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

Although the Crimson Tide typically always have a strong defense, their offense has been just as impressive this season. This could be the best all-around Alabama team that Clemson will have faced over the past four years.

                 

How Clemson Got Here

Much like Alabama, Clemson was dominant during the regular season, as it rolled through its ACC schedule. The Tigers, who are also 14-0, haven't lost since falling to Alabama in last season's Sugar Bowl.

Clemson has only played two SEC schools this season, notching a 28-26 win over Texas A&M on Sept. 8 and a 56-35 victory over South Carolina on Nov. 24.

As for conference play, Clemson's only close game was a 27-23 victory over Syracuse on Sept. 29.

The Tigers entered the season with returning quarterback Kelly Bryant as the starter. However, they opted to replace him with true freshman Trevor Lawrence, and the move worked out well.

Lawrence has passed for 2,606 yards, 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Meanwhile, Bryant opted to transfer, recently announcing his decision to go to Missouri.

Although Lawrence is young and inexperienced, he played a big part in Clemson's 30-3 victory over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. The freshman quarterback passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns to help the Tigers get back to the CFP National Championship.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Arlington
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Clemson has become a national powerhouse since Dabo Swinney became the Tigers' head coach to begin the 2009 season. They have won double-digit games every year since 2011 and are frequently ranked near the top of the AP Top 25 poll.

It would be impressive if Clemson knocked off Alabama for the second time in three seasons to capture another national title. The Tigers are looking to finish off their first undefeated season since 1981.

                   

Prediction

Alabama 34, Clemson 28

Much like the most recent two times these schools met in the CFP National Championship, this one is going to go down to the wire. Alabama and Clemson each showed it was on another level with its semifinal victories, as few teams can hang with either national power.

This time, the Crimson Tide will get the upper hand. They have a much stronger offense than past seasons, and their defense is again impressive. Tagovailoa will be the top playmaker on the field, as he will again have an incredible performance while leading the Tide to back-to-back national titles.

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