For a podcast on this subject go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/01/09/to-the-half-with-matthew-long
In my preseason picks, I chose Clemson to win the college football championship, and I'm not backing away now. Last year's exciting 45 - 40 Alabama win over the Tigers has created a lot of excitement over the rematch and it will be difficult to top last season. Given the one-sided games that have dominated the first eight games of the three playoffs held to this point, it might even be too much to expect a close game that goes down to the wire. Since I've already picked the winner, let me share some other perspectives that might have an impact on the outcome.
Clemson Wants Revenge: It's pretty hard to take a close loss that ultimately hinged on a couple of special teams plays. I remember when Virginia Tech lost to Florida State in 2000 they held the lead in the fourth quarter until Peter Warrick took over for the Seminoles by returning a punt for a touchdown that ended up ending the chances for the Hokies. Last year, Alabama used a perfectly executed onside kick to swing the momentum in their favor. Look for Clemson to have those bases covered (to use a wrong sport metaphor) this time around. It's been thirty-five years since the Tigers have won a national title and these current players have the best chance to do it since, well, last season. Anyway, you get my point, sort of.
Deshaun Watson Wants Revenge: Okay, so I'm repeating myself a bit. I'm sure when Watson watched Lamar Jackson from Louisville lift the Heisman Trophy, he was probably thinking, "Hey, what about me?" Clemson's only loss was by a point to Pittsburgh and Watson threw for almost 4200 yards, completed over 67% of his passes and tossed 38 touchdown passes while rushing for almost 600 yards and eight touchdowns. I don't disagree with Jackson's award, but that's not really my point. The issue is whether it will give the Clemson QB further motivation to show that maybe the voters got it all wrong. I think it will.
Alabama Offensive Coordinator Shakeup: I can make a case either way on this one. I'll start with the argument that Steve Sarkisian replacing outgoing Lane Kiffin a week before the championship probably won't matter. After all, Sark was brought in as a consultant to Nick Saban's Alabama staff since it was widely presumed that Kiffin wouldn't be retained beyond the expiration of his contract the first of February. Kiffin and Sarkisian both come from Pete Carroll's coaching tree so philosophically there's not likely to be a big change, as least not this late in the season. In addition, Sarkisian has been involved in game planning and scheme development since his hiring. Now for the opposite point of view. Regardless of how great a coach and administrator Nick Saban is, Lane Kiffin's status and ultimate departure can't but have been at least a bit of a distraction. And even though Sark has been heavily involved, he hasn't been the one calling the plays and managing the offense on game day.
Alabama Won a Diminished SEC: I'm sure any SEC fans reading this will take exception, but the conference really was down this season. Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State managed even a .500 record. Every team in the SEC West other than Alabama had at least four losses, and all of those other than LSU had at least five. In the East, only one team, Florida, had a winning conference record and they were hardly an offensive juggernaut. Alabama's signature non-conference win was in week one against USC, which went on to get clobbered twice more before making a change at quarterback and running the table the rest of the way. Clemson defeated two SEC teams on the road, plus Florida State, Louisville and Virginia Tech on their way to the playoffs. To say that Alabama was more tested on its way to the final is inaccurate this year, and remember I follow both conferences very closely, with ties to both Virginia Tech and Arkansas.
It's Time For A Change: There is absolutely nothing logical or
performance based for this other than my desire to see someone else
other than Alabama win. As great as the Crimson Tide is, and there's no
denying that should they win they are very deserving of the title, I'd
like to see Clemson find a way to prevail Monday night.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.