Monday, January 11, 2016

How Underdog Clemson Can Beat Alabama

Remember how Texas QB Vince Young, an awesome runner and a capable passer, destroyed USC  in the national championship game, a 41-38 thriller, in January, 2006?. Something similar could happen in today's game, with Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson,  going all Vince-Young on Alabama.

Watson, who's just a sophomore, is the reincarnation of Young, The ACC's Watson is the best player in the country, though bullish Bama RB Derrick Henry won the Heisman, thanks to the usual SEC bias. Watson is the best running QB since Young, superior to Heisman winners Manziel, Tebow and Mariota.

This championship game comes down to Watson vs the great Bama front seven, the best in college football. Can they contain him? In the playoff battle on New Year's Eve,  tough, talented Oklahoma couldn't handle Watson and fell pretty easily 37-17. But the Sooners' front seven is no where near as good as Bama's, which is big, fast and particularly skilled at ranging side-to-side and pressuring QBs, having recorded 50 sacks, tops in the country. Watson controlled that game with his scrambling and rushing, piling up145 yards on 24 carries, part of Clemson's whopping 550 total.

Watson will have plenty of help. The Clemson offensive line, which doesn't get nearly enough attention, is among the nation's elite. They can hold their own against the Bama defensive front and give Watson room to work.

Bama's offense, featuring Henry's rushing, is underwhelming, particularly its poor passing game. The Bama QB Jake Coker is, at best, average,  The Tide won't kill you with passing or long drives, ranking a pitiful 96th nationally in 3rd down conversions. Clemson's game plan is obvious--stack the line to stop Henry and dare Coker to beat you with this passing, which he can't.

Coach Dabo Swinney's Clemson has won all its 14 games this season and is on a 17-game win streak, beginning late last season. Nick Saban's Alabama team has lost just once, falling to Ole Miss last September in Tuscaloosa, 43-37, mainly because the Rebels won the turnover battle 5-0.

Bama is a 6.5 favorite over Clemson. Much of that is based on the Tide's 38-0 massacre of Michigan State in the semi-final game. Experts are giving that easy victory way too much weight. MSU, with its lame offense, didn't belong in that final-four game.

Clemson is a much better all-around team, with a monster at QB. If you're betting, take the underdog. You're betting on Watson pulling a Vince-Young.

He just might do it.