Alabama is really good. We can all agree on that. No one argued the number one preseason ranking that the Crimson Tide were given, and few are arguing their current number one ranking. Why would anyone? All they have done is steamrolled over SEC competition the last two weekends by a combined score of 125-3. Yes, you read that correctly, the Crimson Tide have scored 125 points and allowed only three points in the last two games. Not bad, right?
The offense is unstoppable; the defense is unbeatable. Alabama looks every bit the part of a number one team in the nation. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t watch football or is simply one of those diehard fans who always claims his team is the best in the country. Either way, Alabama is the clear cut best. Or are they?
Remember that team that won the National Championship last year? The team that beat the Alabama Crimson Tide. How could you not? It was one of the greatest National Championship games we’ve ever seen. Well, that team is back in 2017, and they haven’t skipped a beat. This Clemson Tigers team has done nothing but picked up where they left off after beating the Crimson Tide in last year’s title game. Yet they are ranked number two, behind Alabama. What’s the reason?
There were questions about how Clemson would rebound after losing so much talent to the NFL draft. They lost their starting quarterback (Deshaun Watson), running back (Wayne Gallman), top two receivers (Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett), sack leader (Carlos Watkins), and best defensive back (Cordrea Tankersley). That’s a lot of lost talent. Anyone would have guessed that there would be rebuilding struggles early in the following season. However, through five games in 2017, the lost talent hasn’t affected Clemson at all as they have shown that they are still the best team in college football.
Don’t believe me? That’s ok. Let’s compare the Tigers and Crimson Tide to see who is really the best team in college football.
Early Season Resume
We are only five weeks into the 2017 season, but Clemson already boasts the strongest resume of any team. Oh, that’s not just any team in 2017, but actually any team ever through five weeks. They have already beaten three AP top 15 teams, becoming the first team ever to do so before October 1st. What’s more? They have done so with ease, outscoring the three by a combined score of 92-44. The closest game, an eight point win against Auburn in Week 2, never looked in doubt, as they held Auburn to just 15 total yards in the second half.
Alabama also boasts an impressive resume. Outscoring SEC teams by a combined score of 125-3 in two weeks is incredible. They have been able to handle their schedule with ease, showing dominance over lesser opponents. A week one win against number three ranked Florida State looked more impressive before the recent struggles the Seminoles showed in weeks four and five.
Alabama has played amazing, but Clemson has beaten better teams. Clemson is on a historic run to begin the season and boasts a more impressive resume through five weeks.
This is another place in which both teams are thriving. Let’s be honest, the two best teams in the country will have all around success, but let’s compare the two.
Clemson has allowed the 4th fewest points in the country at 10.8 points per game along with the 8th fewest yards allowed with 250 per game. Remember the competition that has come against. Those stats comprise an away game in Louisville against last year’s Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and an Auburn team that just put up 49 points against number 24 ranked Mississippi State. That same Auburn team could only produce six points against Clemson.
Alabama is no slouch in the defensive department either. They allow the fewest points in the country with 8.6 per game and the 7th fewest yards with 249 per game. As was stated earlier, they’ve held SEC opponents to three total points in the last two weeks. This defense is about as complete and dominant as it comes. The lone blemish on the schedule is 23 points allowed to an unimpressive Colorado State Rams team. Fourteen of those points, however, came when the game was already a blowout in the 4th quarter.
This is about as close as it comes statistically speaking. This comes down to the opponents of Alabama and Clemson. Once again, Clemson has a stronger resume to boast. Holding Auburn to six points and 15 second half yards and a Lamar Jackson led Louisville team to 21 points, 14 of which came in the 4th quarter when the game was all but over, says a lot about the Clemson defense. Unfortunately, Alabama is suffering from a weak schedule that may not challenge them until late in the season. The advantage goes to Clemson here as top offenses could generate nothing against the Tigers defense.
Let’s start with quarterback Kelly Bryant, who came into the season with the tall order of filling the shoes of Deshaun Watson. He hasn’t disappointed as he has completed 66% of his passes for 1,059 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions to go with 362 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. His total quarterback rating of 78.5 places Bryant 13th in the nation.
The run game is where Clemson boasts the most playmakers with four running backs each with two touchdowns or more on the season. Travis Etienne, Tavien Feaster, C.J. Fuller, and Adam Choice have combined for 12 total touchdowns on 815 yards rushing. They each own a touchdown run of 26 yards or more. Freshman Travis Etienne has touchdown runs of 81 and 50 yards and another run of 54 yards on the season. He also has a 60-yard touchdown reception to add to his name. Etienne is absolutely explosive out of the backfield.
Finally, Clemson has three capable wide receivers in Ray-Ray McCloud, Hunter Renfrow, and Deon Cain. The three receivers have combined for 608 receiving yards. McCloud has a touchdown reception of 79 yards while Cain has a touchdown reception of 61 yards.
Alabama may have the best quarterback duo in the nation. Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa have combined for 965 yards with 10 touchdowns (Hurts – 6, Tagovailoa – 4) and no interceptions. Hurts also boasts 461 yards rushing with four more touchdowns. Jalen Hurts’ total quarterback rating of 87.6 ranks him 3rd in the country; he’s impressive.
Alabama also boasts a running back trio with Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and Najee Harris. The three running backs have combined for 814 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Finally, the Crimson Tide’s stud wide receiver Calvin Ridley is a matchup nightmare for defenses. With 322 receiving yards, he already has touchdown receptions of 53 and 78 yards.
This is another tough comparison matchup. Alabama has the edge with the quarterback battle though Kelly Bryant is not far behind. Jalen Hurts is currently the better of the two passers.
The run game is about as even as you can get as the highlighted players above contain 815 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns for Clemson and 814 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns for Alabama. Still, I would give Clemson the edge with the explosiveness factor mainly due to Travis Etienne. Every time he touches the ball, he has the potential of taking it the distance.
The receiving corps, however, has to go to Clemson. Calvin Ridley is probably better than any of the Clemson wide receivers, but he’s alone on the Alabama offense. No one else on the Crimson Tide roster has over six receptions. Calvin Ridley has 24. Where is the help coming from? Clemson can spread the ball around more with their wide receiver trio. As a unit, Clemson wins the battle with the receivers.
As stated, I would give the quarterback battle to Alabama, despite the noise Kelly Bryant has made this season. Alabama’s quarterbacks have been flawless with no interceptions thrown. However, the rest of the offense goes to Clemson. There is so much speed and explosiveness on this team it is almost impossible to defend. Clemson wins the playmaker battle as well.
As the statistics will show, these are the two best teams in college football. Resumes, defense, and offense will show just how dominate these two programs are right now. There is no argument that one of these two teams is the best in the country. Which one is number one though?
Well, as shown with the above comparisons, Clemson holds the battle with the better resume, though Alabama is not far behind. You cannot argue against a historic start for Clemson though. I believe Clemson’s defense wins the battle based on opposing teams played, but both are about dead even statistically. It’s your call on who you think has outperformed the other on defense. However, the case for the team with the most explosive offense goes to Clemson. They have dangerous weapons all over the field.
All of that being said, the conclusion is clear, the reigning National Champion Clemson Tigers are still the best team in college football. Welcome back to the top, Clemson.
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