Regardless of your feelings towards either the SEC or ACC, as a fan of college football, you have to admit that Alabama and Clemson reign supreme atop the list of powerhouse programs in NCAA football yet again. Yes, one could say that Oklahoma arguably has the best win of the college football season to this point with their blowout victory in Columbus (at a stadium that according to Wikipedia is now owned by Baker Mayfield).
Nevertheless, Clemson has knocked off back-to-back top twenty teams in Auburn and Louisville. All they did in those two games was combine for fifteen sacks and momentarily end the Heisman chatter surrounding Lamar Jackson. On the other hand, it is also easy to forget how dominant the Crimson Tide played against a third-ranked Florida State team to open the season.
Although it may feel like the game took place three months ago, it truly was not that long ago that Alabama proved their dominance to open the season with a 24-7 victory over the Seminoles in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. At first glance, the numbers put up by Jalen Hurts may not look magnificent and may even call vast amounts of Tide faithful to argue the case for true freshman and Hawaii native Tua Tagovailoa to get some more playing time.
However, it is important to note that this will likely be the toughest defense that Hurts and Alabama have to go up against until they have to face a team with a tiger mascot such as LSU, Auburn, or Clemson. Just because Alabama and Clemson both have key wins over ranked teams under their belt already does not necessarily mean that they will meet for a third consecutive time in the National Championship this year.
The reason that we will see yet another rematch in the National Championship can be attributed to the schedules of both the Tide and the Tigers. Even after the way that LSU under-performed this past weekend in “Stark Vegas”, it is my belief that as long as Alabama does not find a way to beat themselves, then their next true test likely will not come until the month of November. Alabama will open the month with a matchup in Bryant-Denny Stadium against LSU and follow that up with a potentially dangerous trip to Starkville. If Alabama can survive those two matchups, then they can look forward to an Iron Bowl on the “Plains” that could potentially decide the SEC West once again.
After the way that last season ended in Tampa Bay, I do not see any of these three teams stopping the Tide from rolling, which would mean that only whatever the SEC East has to offer would stand in the way of Alabama returning to yet another College Football Playoff. The biggest factor stopping the Crimson Tide from returning to the National Championship this year is the likelihood of having to first win a bowl game in New Orleans, something that they have not done since beating LSU in the 2011 National Championship Game (0-2 since).
For Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers, the path is fairly similar to that of Alabama. They will travel to a tough environment in Blacksburg, Virginia to take on a top 25 Virginia Tech squad that is hungry for an upset.
Junior quarterback Kelly Bryant will prove once again why he won the starting job in Death Valley and he will lead the Tigers to a big win over the Hokies. While there is potential for Clemson to have a letdown against a team such as NC State or Florida State, the defense of Clemson is one that could potentially rival those great defenses that Nick Saban puts on the field in Tuscaloosa year in and year out. I expect that even if Clemson does stumble along the way like last year against Pittsburgh, they will still find a way into the College Football Playoff.
After the way that the past two seasons have played out, you would have to be crazy not to think that Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban will not be playing once again for all the marbles. Personally, I look forward to paying a fortune to go watch Alabama vs. Clemson Pt. 3 in the tremendous new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in January. If the third matchup is anything like the first two, expect a shootout that goes down to the wire. The difference this time around… no Deshaun Watson. It would only be fair to see a defensive slugfest in this year’s title game after witnessing the shootouts that took place the last two times these teams met.
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