All or Nothing

All or Nothing
Reading Time: 3 minutes.

Tonight in SanJose California, Clemson and Alabama will renew their recent but increasingly bitter rivalry.

This is the fifth year of the the College Football Play Off system and the fourth time that the Tigers and the Tide have met during the play offs, the third time in the final.

So it’s no surprise that some folks are saying they are “bored” of the play off system.

But isn’t this exactly what happens when two teams are trying desperately hard to build dynasties? Certainly Nick Saban is well on the way to attaining a sainthood in Tuscaloosa. And if Dabo Sweeney keeps this up, he won’t be far behind in Death Valley.

It has been clear for some time, save for some nonsensical discussions between “pundits” about strength of schedule that the game at Levi Stadium would be played between the Tigers and Tide. They are and have been clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the completion.

Whatever you might think about Notre Dame, Brian Kelly believed that this year’s Irish side was the best he has ever had in South Bend. And this is a Fightin’ Irish side which beat Michigan, Pitt, Stanford, Syracuse, USC to name a few.

Clemson 30 Notre Dame 3. It wasn’t even close.

At least the other semi final was a competitive affair. But had it been a boxing match the contest would have been stopped at the end of the first quarter.

Alabama 21 Oklahoma 0.

But we knew this was a talented, certainly offensively, Sooners side and they eventually battled back. Still, the Tide were comfortable winners in the end.

Alabama 45 Oklahoma 34.

So Monday night sees a game which without doubt pits the two best teams in the nation against each other. Of that there is no doubt. There can be no more, “well Georgia deserved to be there” or “why isn’t UCF in the play off”. The talking is over. Both Alabama and Clemson have undefeated 14-0 seasons behind them.

How will it play out? Well, here are a few of my thoughts on which the game could twist and turn.

Travis Etienne

Trevor Lawrence is a true freshman quarterback. Each game so far we have been told he will buckle under the pressure. So far that has not been the case. However let’s  say the occasion, an unusual one for a true freshman to find himself in, does become too big for him. Travis Etienne’s role is crucial. The Clemson running game depends heavily on him and he was devastating against Notre Dame. Etienne has run for 1,572 yards this season in an offence which averages over 250 yards per game. Etienne will be the number one threat to the Bama defence and must have an effective game for Clemson to have a chance at winning.

Quinnen Williams

We all know the big man has all the talent in the world. We all know he is going on to have a stellar NFL career. However if Alabama are to take Trevor Lawrence out of the game or even just throw him off his game, Williams will be pivotal in that role. Williams is the “disruptor” in the Alabama defence. He is a man who causes chaos. It is said an impressive outing in the Natty could lead him to becoming the number one overall pick in the 2019 draft. That is either great incentive or huge pressure.

Bama defence

Nick Saban’s has time and time again spelled out that the biggest threat to Bama is Bama itself and this became evident in the third quarter against Oklahoma during the semi final. A series of mental errors led to a number of defensive penalties which allowed the Sooners back in to the game. We forget that Alabama lost  a large contingent of defensive players in this year’s NFL draft. It is  assumed there is a conveyor belt of talent. This is true to an extent, but there is still some inexperience in there which gives Saban cause for concern. 

The impact of a missing Dexter Lawrence

Lawrence would have been public enemy number one for Tua Tagovailoa if available. However Lawrence is out after failing a drugs test. Deputy Albert Huggins played well against the Irish, but the Tide are a different test. We have seen what Tagovailoa can do and Clemson have to put pressure on the Tide QB to keep him from wrecking havoc. Not content with that pressure, Huggins also has to deputise on offence to fill the void in the “fridge package” that Lawrence and Wilkinson have perfected. No mean feat for this Senior.

These are just some of the sub plots which will come to the boil in Levi Stadium on Monday. Close, tense, exciting, thrilling it will be.

Repetitive, boring, dull? You must be kidding me.

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