Championship Game Preview: Can ’16 Alabama be the Greatest Team of The Modern Era?
In a mirror image of last year’s epic championship game, undefeated and #1 Alabama takes on #2 and one-loss Clemson tonight. Several people, among them REO Contributor Mike Lytle, have confessed to me they are pulling for Clemson because Alabama has won far too much. This has been my reaction (minus the commandment breaking):
It’s Like Goliath vs. Jezebel
I confess I have Bama fatigue due to their success and they are among the last teams I’d like to see win it. But if Alabama induces weariness in my sports fandom, Clemson winning would induce war crime-level torture.
Yet I cannot deny that Clemson likely stands a better chance this year than last, in which they were a play or two away. They have everything Alabama does: 3-deep roster talent, exceptional coordinator coaching, unshakeable confidence. If quarterback is the most important position in football, and it is, then they have a decided advantage over the Tide. If D-line is the second most important position in college football, and it is, then Clemson isn’t losing ground there either (as I wrote last year, and it’s still true). They won’t get intimidated or pushed around and the Tiger offense likely will not get rattled into a turnover that leads to a TD the other way, as other teams have 11 times this year vs. Bama1.
As a Gamecock, I’m terrified.
I wasn’t too worried before the Ohio St. game. Clemson blew out several teams this year, including mine, but had so many close calls that I figured they were just a step behind last year. They gave up 43 to Pitt, 36 to Louisville, 34 to FSU, 35 to Va Tech and needed N.C. St to miss a short FG to pull that one out in overtime.
The Opposite of a Late Season Collapse
How did this team not only dismantle Ohio St. but also shut them out? I could discuss Xs and Os all day (Ohio St. could not throw it downfield as well as the teams that put 34+ on Clemson, which is also not what Bama does well) but sometimes sports that involve 18 to 21 year olds are more complex than typical analysis.
Personally, I believe Clemson is better than last year and suffered a tad from last year’s hangover and did just well enough to get back to the playoff and now they are turning it on. They beat us about as badly as you can beat a team, they raced out to a huge lead the following week vs. VT and swatted them away when they needed to at the end (just as they did with Louisville and Florida St.) And most impressive of all they then rolled one of the most consistent teams in college football in the semifinal.
Clemson has a lot to play for…their first championship since 1981 and second ever, a chance to truly join college football royalty, and a chance for their end of year result to match the swagger that Dabo has modeled and instilled over 8 years now. And for everyone else…a chance to at least put a dent in the Bama dominance. They have the tools for sure.
If Bama wins, can we complain about UConn Women’s Basketball?
On the other side, Bama has nearly as much to play for: 5 undisputed championships in 8 years which hasn’t been done in the poll era, and (in my humble opinion) a chance for the 2016 version to enter the argument for greatest college team of my lifetime, the modern era2. They had two close games this year: one vs. Ole Miss which was not as close as the final indicated. They got down 24-3 and then destroyed the Rebels for the next two and a half quarters 45-6 before Ole Miss tagged on a couple of meaningless TDs. They also beat LSU in Baton Rouge by “only” 10 points. And I watched that game start to finish and doubt LSU could have scored if they played 8 quarters so that game never really felt like Alabama was going to lose.
Other than that, they really weren’t even threatened slightly. They are as imposing a defense, I think, since their 1992 version which may be the greatest ever. I don’t trust Hurts, Scarborough and Harris like I trusted Coker and Derrick Henry. Hurts is not a substandard passer by any means (22 TDs and 2600+ yards), though, and considering how Coker got batted around like a pin ball last year it may be better to have a better running QB vs. a team that gets pressure like Clemson’s. Plus, Bama always seems to just find a way to score, to win. It’s an intangible for sure and it goes team wide. Some Bama fans were sweating when they got down three TDs to Ole Miss. I turned to my wife and said, “I bet they win by 14”.
And in my opinion, should they win tonight becoming the first ever 15-0 team at this level of football and winning every game but one by 10+ (tonight’s result pending), they would be one of the ten best teams ever.
I will wait to see if they win before ranking them but as of right now I would say the following ten teams are the best of this era, in no particular order:
2004 Southern Cal
2013 Florida St.
1988 Notre Dame
So if Alabama wins I will add them where I think they belong on the list, and produce a new article later this week with the Top 10 ranked in order (including 2016 Bama) and comments about each one.
If Clemson wins, I will jerk my TV from the wall, throw it out the window, rend my garments, pull out my beard, fast and weep violently into my wife’s arms and probably disappear for 6 months.
So this is how it’s going to go…
So how will it go tonight? I will give some random predictions for the game and a prediction for the final score:
- Alabama will NOT score on special teams or defense tonight.
- If Clemson turns it over once or less, they win; twice or more and they lose
- Watson runs for more yards than Hurts
- Hurts throws for more yards than his season aveage because they are behind in the second half.
- Watson has less total yards but less turnovers than last year, plays an overall better game and wins MVP
- Dabo wears a K-Mart sweatshirt.
I’m guessing it won’t be as fun as last year, it will be more low scoring but it will be a cleaner, more professional looking game. Clemson will be by far the most explosive team Bama has faced this year. The SEC is down. Taking out defense and special teams TDs, Bama only averaged 28 PPG game this year, which feels low. So I’ll go out on a limb and say Clemson doesn’t turn it over and pulls the (sort of) upset:
CLEMSON 27, ALABAMA 17
See y’all in six months.
- Someone may point out that Watson threw 15 picks this year but they were not really the kind Bama is used to getting. Only 1 was returned for a TD and there was no pressure on that play. The vast majority of his ints were bad reads or tipped balls, not throws made because he was pressured. ↩
- I do not think it’s fair for me to try to compare modern teams to teams I never saw play. Facts and stats are great, but the eye test is something. So I’m talking about since I began watching college football and the first championship I remember is Oklahoma winning in 1985. ↩
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16 thoughts on “Championship Game Preview: Can ’16 Alabama be the Greatest Team of The Modern Era?”
You are much more evenhanded and fair than I would be in a similar situation.
Clemson does all of college football (minus T-town and Cola) a favor tonight: 41-24
For the benefit of REO I want to be taken seriously. I save my irrational, over the top, NSFW (just kidding) comments for texting my brothers and other private means. And believe me, there are plenty of those.
I just don’t want to be what I dislike about people like Cowherd and Simmons and Clay Travis. They are either homers or talk in such simplistic extremes at times that I find it hard to take them seriously and read them to be entertained instead of informed. Simmons is such a good writer, though I will gladly read him any day.
But make no mistake, I am scared. The only silver lining is that people I really do love and respect in SC will be experiencing great euphoria if Clemson wins. People in my family, people I graduated high school with and went to church with, etc. I keep them in my mind’d eye when writing so as to remain fairly even handed. And even then, I had to work in a good extreme joke or two.
I will take no pleasure in those hillbillies winning. I told two of my students last week, who are going to the game, that I hope they come back miserable. It is either them or me and in the sports world I look out for number one. When people say “how can you say that?” I take them back to 1989 when 12 year old Ashley got mercilessly mocked with several phone calls as his Gamecocks were being pummeled by their hated rival. These snowflakes need adversity.
Well I’m glad that 1989 game left no long term effects.
1989,2003,2016. The scars run deep.
I got the winning team right (more or less a 50/50 chance) but missed most of the rest. Hurts needed to be a tad more accurate tonight. Football is complex though so I don’t know how much of it was nobody open, bad play calls, etc. The crucial play to me was when he threw it to the RB and the TE grabbed it instead. That was going to be a huge play that ended up as a punt.
I’ll evaluate my predictions:
–Clemson 27, Alabama 17 (Mostly correct, was wrong about game flow)
–Bama will not score on D or ST (Correct, although not a huge gamble)
–If Clemson turns it over 2X or more they lose (Entirely incorrect…the had two TOs)
–Watson runs for more yards than Hurts (Entirely incorrect…was right until Hurts final run, but it counts….looked like Saban was adamant that Watson would not beat him with the legs this time)
–Hurts throws for more yards than season average (Entirely incorrect…he looked hesitant and confused most of the night…they also were not behind until very late which was part of the prediction)
–Watson has less yards/TOs, plays better, wins MVP (Entirely correct….but his total yards were close to last year)
–Dabo wears a K-Mart sweater (Entirely correct, but that was like predicting the sun would rise)
Deshaun Watson deserves every accolade anyone has thrown or can throw his way after last night’s performance. He was the best player on the field.
But Boulware was also the best player on the field when the Tide took to the field on offense. He was calling out plays, the direction plays were going, blowing up screens in the 2nd half, and filling just about every gap in the run game (minus the first 3 Alabama possessions). He was a beast. Very impressed.
Also, Mike Williams made every 50/50 catch down the stretch after losing half his brain cells in the first half after taking that hit. And the rest of the big catches were by Hunter Renfrow. My guess is, Renfrow gets picked up by the Patriots or Cowboys as an un-drafted rookie and becomes a consistent slot receiver for the next 5-10 years.
On a more serious note…the big winner of the night were all the fans/spectators who not only got to see a great game, but also were treated to a spectacular vision of strength and conditioning every time a flag was thrown. That head official was ripped, the Ed Hochuli of the NCAA. And he knew it.
The ref blew up twitter. I saw constant tweets about him, nearly as many about the game itself. A guy named Fake Bo Pelini was killing it with tweets about him.
I agree about Watson. If he would have come back for his senior year he could have been the best ever. Clutch guy all the way. Even with 3 years he has to go down as one of the best ever at College QB.
And the Clemson receivers were the other stars. All of them. Obviously Williams and Renfrow but also Cain and Legget. Tough catches they made on the last drives. Interestingly, probably the most prolific statistically, Scott, wasn’t that big a factor. That’s how deep that receiving corps is. I said something about them on my second FB share of this article yesterday and how they’d be the difference and I wish I had put them in my predictions somehow. I could have gotten another one right.
In his post game comments, Watson referenced Vince Young as one of his college football heroes. Interesting, since he dominated just like VY back in ’06. Those are the 2 most dominantly clutch performances I have ever seen from single players with a NCAA championship on the line. Watson and Young.
My brother and I were watching the game together…well I was watching the game while he was keeping me up-to-date with what fake Bo Pelini was saying. Yeah, Fake Bo was hilarious.
FauxPelini is the best thing on Twitter. If I could only follow one account it would probably be him. His conversations with bowl game Twitter accounts are amazing.
I agree. I just found him but I already can tell he is probably the funniest account I’ve seen. I went back and read his tweets from NFL weekend and the game where Pelini coached in the FCS championship and it was all good.
And I would also add that Gimme Shelter was a great musical choice throughout the broadcast.
Yes, the game was absolutely perfect as far as game action, peripherals, subplots, etc – if you were not a S. Carolina or Bama fan. In fact, these were no doubt the last two teams I wanted to see win it. I was ready to pull for Ohio St., Southern Cal, Florida St. – anybody vs. Bama. But not Clemson.
You’d have to figure the Cubs championship would be sandwiched between Brady’s 4th and Clemson’s first of my post 3 year old lifetime. At least Manning won another. Sports are so extreme.