No. 1 Alabama meets No. 2 Clemson for CFP championship
College Football Playoff national championship
No. 2 Clemson (14-0) vs. No. 1 Alabama (14-0) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, 8 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Line: Alabama by 5½.
Series: Alabama leads 14-3.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The winner of the fourth straight playoff meeting between the Tigers and Tide will be the first major college football team in the poll era, starting with the AP poll in 1936, to finish 15-0. Alabama is looking for its second straight title and sixth since 2009 under coach Nick Saban. Clemson is eyeing its third championship and second in three seasons under coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers lost a classic championship game to Alabama after the 2015 season before beating the Tide on a last-second touchdown for the 2016 crown.
Clemson’s defensive line, led by All-Americans Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, vs. Alabama’s offensive line, led by All-American OT Jonah Williams and second-team All-American C Ross Pierschbacher. The Tigers are a key man down, with defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence suspended for failing an NCAA PED test. Still, they have enough talent to make things uncomfortable for Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa by applying pressure without blitzing. Williams and Pierschbacher are top-notch, but Clemson could have the advantage in one-on-one matchups against Tide RT Jedrick Wills and LG Lester Cotton.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Clemson: RB Travis Etienne. The sophomore is one of college football’s most explosive runners. The second-team All-American had 22 runs of at least 20 yards, second-most in FBS.
Alabama: DT Quinnen Williams. Maybe the most dominant defensive player in college football this season. The All-American won the Outland Trophy as the country’s best interior lineman and had 18½ tackles for loss. The third-year sophomore will likely be one of the first players selected in the NFL draft if he declares after this season.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Saban has six national titles, including a BCS championship with LSU, matching former Alabama coach Bear Bryant for the most in major college football ... Alabama is trying to become the third team to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the AP poll, joining 1999 Florida State and 2004 Southern California. The Tide would also be the 12th team to be preseason No. 1 and win the national championship, and the second team to do it in consecutive seasons. Oklahoma won titles after being preseason No. 1 in 1974 and ’75. ... The lower-ranked team has won each of the previous four CFP national championship games ... Alabama’s senior class is 55-3. Clemson’s seniors are 55-4. They are the two winningest senior classes in major college football history ... Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence can become the first freshman starting quarterback to lead a team to a national championship since Jamelle Holieway of Oklahoma in 1985 ... With one more solid game, Tagovailoa will break the single-season record for passer efficiency rating. He is at 205.19 coming into the game. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield had a 198.92 rating last season.
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