By Tommy Deas
Alabama has the edge statistically, scoring 39.1 points and gaining 465.4 yards on average to Clemson’s 35.4 points and 449.3 yards. Clemson, however, is more balanced with a stronger passing game and has faced a tougher schedule. Alabama has been as inconsistent against better defenses.
Alabama ranks No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing 11.5 points, while Clemson is second, giving up 12.8 on average. Alabama is stronger against the run, but the Tigers haven’t given up a lot on the ground or through the air. Both teams create turnovers.
Clemson is stronger on returns, and has a game-breaker in Ray-Ray McCloud. Alabama, on the other hand, has a much better placekicking unit, making 16 of 22 field goal attempts to Clemson’s 10 of 17. Alabama punter JK Scott controls field position and could be a big factor.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney took Alabama’s Nick Saban to the limit two years ago and beat him in last year’s title game. He has to be considered an equal at this point. Both have created programs that are powerhouses which are built to last.
The Crimson Tide has the revenge factor going for it after losing to Clemson in last year’s title game, but that’s probably not a huge edge. Both rosters are playoff-tested. Alabama has had uneven results in New Orleans of late, but is more familiar with the venue.
Clemson 22, Alabama 20
Alabama just hasn’t looked overpowering against the better defenses it has faced, and Clemson’s may be the best yet. The Crimson Tide will need to find a way to assert itself in the trenches to advance to play for the national title. Clemson won’t be intimidated.
Alabama 31, Clemson 28
Alabama fans didn’t enjoy the climactic finish of the sequel, but they’ll be delighted with the Part III finale. The Crimson Tide avenges their loss to the Tigers in last year’s national championship game in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion. Clemson takes control early, but it’s not enough to outlast Alabama.
Alabama 35, Clemson 30
Even when coming off a loss, it feels like Alabama has some momentum the way Nick Saban’s team snuck into the playoff. Having some time off should help, giving Alabama’s defense an opportunity to heal and figure out what went wrong late in the season. On offense, Alabama will need to get back on track. Going three-and-out against Clemson and allowing the Tigers to run more plays on offense is like playing with fire.
Alabama 30, Clemson 24
Perhaps Alabama-Clemson III isn’t the final chapter and we will have seven or eight sequels, like Star Wars or Rocky. Can every one be the same quality as the original, or the first sequel? Usually not, especially without the original stars. But this one should be good nonetheless.
Clemson 26, Alabama 20
It’s been a long layoff, but it’s hard to shake the most recent image of Clemson dismantling Miami and of Alabama flailing against Auburn. The defenses are the strengths of both teams this year. Expect a lower score than their last two meetings.
Clemson 23, Alabama 16
Maybe the time off has allowed Alabama to regroup on both sides of the ball, but based on the performances down the stretch in November it’s hard to see the Crimson Tide scoring a lot of points against the Clemson defense. Losing the time of possession battle is something Alabama fans are not accustomed to seeing.
Clemson 28, Alabama 17
I expect Clemson vs. Alabama Part III to look familiar to the Iron Bowl in November – the Crimson Tide run game struggling against a dominant defensive line, Jalen Hurts being forced to make plays with his arm, and Alabama failing to convert on third down. All that adds up to back-to-back Crimson Tide losses.
Alabama 23, Clemson 21
Alabama will be hard pressed to have consistent success on offense against the best defense it will have played all season. If Alabama gets into the 20s, it has a chance.
Alabama 27, Clemson 24
There’s a lot of fire under this Alabama team after losing the Iron Bowl and almost getting the boot from the playoffs. It’s ready to compete. It’ll be close battle, but Alabama will pull through last minute.
Clemson 38, Alabama 28
Alabama has a lot to prove after its performance at the Iron Bowl where execution seemed to be a major issue on all fronts.