CFP National Championship 2016: We’re down to two as the No. 1 Clemson Tigers are set to take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide for a chance at a national championship.
One team was favored in the semifinals, and the other was not, but they are both heading to the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game after convincing semifinal wins.
Here’s a look at the schedule for the title game and some reaction around the web:Despite being undefeated and the undisputed No. 1 team in the country heading into the Orange Bowl, Clemson was still the underdog against the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners.
Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney did a great job of making sure his team knew not many people around the country gave them much of a chance after Clemson’s 37-17 victory, per ESPN:Alabama, on the other hand, was nearly a 10-point favorite over the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans, and played like it, taking home a 38-0 victory.
Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Derrick Henry, broke the SEC single-season rushing touchdown record when he crossed the goal line for the 24th time to give the Crimson Tide a 7-0 lead in the first quarter over Michigan State. He finished with 75 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
As The Monday Morning Quarterback pointed out, Henry is going to be hard to stop in the championship game:However, if Clemson’s defense continues to play like it has all season, the Crimson Tide are going to be forced into throwing the ball more than they may like, per ESPN Stats & Info:Quarterback Jake Coker did just that against Michigan State—and did it well—completing 25 of 30 passes for a career-high 286 yards and two touchdowns.
ESPN college football analyst Danny Kanell praised Coker at halftime of the Cotton Bowl despite some earlier criticism:However, it’s going to be all about Henry setting the pace for the Alabama offense against Clemson.
The Tigers offense, which has averaged nearly 40 points per game, was highly touted, but the defense held Oklahoma’s star running back Samaje Perine to just 58 yards on 15 carries after he came in averaging 162 yards per game the past three contests.
The top two teams in the country excel in all facets of the game, and here’s a look at how they match up on each side of the ball:
Even though the Crimson Tide rely heavily on Henry, the Tigers actually rush for more yards per game because their quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who was third in Heisman voting, has rushed for 1,032 yards after his 145-yard performance against the Sooners.
Swinney didn’t mince words when talking about his quarterback after his team’s latest win, per ESPN.com.
“Deshaun Watson is the best player in the country. It’s just that simple,” Swinney said. “People can have their own opinions or whatever, but there ain’t a better one than No. 4. This guy is special in every regard.”
Watson and the Tigers offense are going to be tested against the No. 1-ranked defense in the country, per ESPN.com’s team efficiency rankings, that just shut out a team averaging 32.1 points per game.
Between the Clemson offense and Alabama defense, something is going to give in the national championship game in what should be a great end to an exciting college football season.
Swinney, Watson and the Tigers have proved doubters wrong all season, but with the way Alabama is clicking on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to see the Crimson Tide losing to anyone at this point.
Prediction: Alabama wins, 31-20.