After completely embarrassing No. 3 Ohio State, 31-0, in the College Football Playoff, No. 2 Clemson (13-1) has its eyes firmly set on No. 1 Alabama (14-0). The Tide, who have won 26 straight games, have held seven opponents to seven points or fewer this season, but the Tigers will not be intimidated in Tampa on Jan. 9.
“Oh, yes, they can (beat Alabama),” ACC Network analyst Tommy Bowden said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They’re going to be really confident. They had (more than) 500 yards of total offense (in the national championship last year). They scored 40 points. If Alabama doesn’t get the onside kick, they probably win the game. So they’re going to go in there with confidence. They know the offense can score. So yes, Clemson is fully capable of beating Alabama.”
Clemson was shaky for much of the season, winning six games by seven points or fewer. Then came the white-washing of the Buckeyes.
“To me, the key is going to be the offensive line,” Bowden said. “Alabama can impose its will on Clemson’s offensive line, but they’ve got a great equalizer back there at quarterback in Deshaun Watson and some really good skill. Plus, Clemson’s defense is playing really, really well. I’m anxious to see now the battle in the trenches (unfolds). In most games, it comes down to that, and I think it surely will in this game.”
Alabama has been without question the most consistent – and most dominant – team in college football this year. Still, it’s safe to say the Tide haven’t faced anyone on par with the Tigers, who, man-for-man, can match Alabama in talent.
“Not only that, (but) it’s how Clemson attacks the defense,” Bowden said. “They’re going to really attack the field from sideline to sideline. They’re going to take that 53 yards and make you defend every bit of it, either a bubble screen or a speed sweep or a tunnel screen outside and then obviously the downfield throws to Mike Williams. They’ve got a nice vertical passing game. So Alabama is going to have the best athletes – but not by much, by (only) a little bit – on defense. Clemson is going to challenge them to make them do the hardest thing: Okay, you got better players, but every one of your good athletes better make an open-field tackle because we’re going to make you defend the whole width. If you put many guys up there, we can get Mike Williams and some of these other big wideouts downfield. So not only does Clemson have good athletes, but they really challenge the other teams defenses by how they make you tackle in space.”
Watson threw two first-half interceptions against Ohio State but still finished with 300+ total yards and three touchdowns (two rush, one pass). He completed at least three passes to four different receivers, including Williams, who had six catches for a game-high 96 yards.
Kickoff for the national championship is slated for 8 p.m. ET.