College Football National Championship Preview
January 6, 2016
The wait is finally over. All of the college football bowl games have been played, and just one game remains in the season, the National Championship Game. The game features #1 Clemson (14-0) and #2 Alabama (13-1), after both teams easily handled their respective opponents in their semifinal game. Despite being ranked number one and boasting an undefeated record, Clemson is currently a seven point underdog to traditional SEC powerhouse Alabama. This game is the second national championship game in which the teams were decided by using the new playoff system and will kick off January 11th, at 8:30 PM Eastern Time.
The #1 Clemson Tigers roll into the national championship having not lost a game since November 15th of last season, to Georgia Tech. During the course of the season, the Tigers defeated Notre Dame, Florida St, North Carolina, and Oklahoma in the semifinal game en route to an undefeated record. Sophomore QB Deshaun Watson has had a magnificent season in his first full season as the Clemson starter, throwing for 3,699 yards and rushing for 1,032 yards this season. His excellent play was rewarded with a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy Finalist, where he finished third. Watson’s excellent season has overshadowed the solid season of Running Back Wayne Gallman, who is also very important to the Clemson offense. Gallman has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and has 12 touchdowns this season. However, Watson, Gallman, and the rest of the Tiger offense will be faced with arguably their toughest challenge yet in the Alabama defense in the National Championship.
On the other hand, #2 Alabama began their season very slowly, and lost their only game of the season on September 19th to SEC foe Ole Miss in their third game of the season. Early in the season, coach Nick Saban struggled to find a Quarterback, with Senior Jake Coker and Sophomore Cooper Bateman both making starts. However, Coker eventually took the job and improved as the season went along. He completed 83.3% of his passes in the semifinal game against Michigan St. However, their offense lives and dies by their Heisman Trophy winning Running Back, Derrick Henry. Henry, a Junior, is in his first full season as the Tide running back after playing behind T.J. Yeldon in his previous two seasons with the Tide. Henry has rushed for an incredible 2,061 yards this season, good for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. The Alabama defense, however, has truly been their calling card all season long. The defense has allowed 23 or more points just once this season, in the loss to Ole Miss. After that game, the Tide defense had two shutouts, allowed just six points to star QB Dak Prescott and his Mississippi St. offense and stopped up Star RB Leonard Fournette to just 31 yards on 19 carries.
The second college football national championship game using the new playoff system should be an excellent game, mashing two different styles of offense together with two excellent defenses. However, Clemson’s offense can throw and run the ball with incredible efficiency, which should be good enough to move the ball well enough to win this game, and bring home the first national championship for Clemson since 1981.