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Clemson should have the momentum against Alabama going into the 2017 National Championship

Kim Montuoro/Photo Editor

Coming off of what was arguably their most complete performance of the season, the Clemson Tigers should be boasting plenty of momentum in Tampa Bay for Monday night’s National Championship game. The Tigers shut out the Ohio State Buckeyes 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl last weekend, producing one of the year’s top offensive showings in all of college football.
Outgaining the Buckeyes by a gaudy 470-215 margin, the Tigers were unstoppable on New Year’s Eve, closing out 2016 with a bang. While Clemson’s upcoming opponent, the Alabama Crimson Tide, have a high-powered offense themselves, their lackluster offensive performance in the Peach Bowl left a lot to be desired. In fact, with the early departure of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Alabama is in a slight state of disarray right now. Therefore, with the momentum gained from the Fiesta Bowl domination, the Tigers should be able to take advantage.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was impressed with his team’s Fiesta Bowl performance, saying afterward, “They exhausted and dominated the moment that was in front of them. And [I am] just really, really proud of them. Offensively, really, it was just a great team effort.” Deshaun Watson, the Offensive MVP of the game, was particularly impressive, overcoming an early interception to lead his team on scoring drive after scoring drive.
However, defense will be the key to Clemson trumping Alabama for its first national title since 1981. When these two teams met in last season’s grand finale, the Crimson Tide were able to come away victorious with big-yardage plays downfield. If the Fiesta Bowl is any indication, however, that will not be an issue for Clemson this time around.
Ohio State had nearly a month to prepare for the Tigers, but one could not have been able to tell it by watching the thrashing in Arizona. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was kept in the pocket practically the entire game, constantly flustered by Clemson’s stacked defensive line. Interestingly enough, the Washington Huskies, Alabama’s Peach Bowl opponent, were able to limit mobile Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts in a similar manner, thus boding well for a Clemson team with a pass-rushing attack as fearsome as any team’s in the nation.
Another key to victory for the Tigers will be to continue feeding running back Wayne Gallman. As one of the most talented running backs in the country, Gallman has actually flown under the radar this season due to the bevy of riches that Clemson boasts on the offensive side of the ball. Consistently making the most of his carries, Gallman is a hot commodity for the Tigers, and, if he is utilized early on, he could help the Tigers’ rushing attack propel Clemson to victory.
Needless to say, defeating a team only two years removed from a national championship by a final score of 31-0 is quite the feat, and it should have the Crimson Tide worried about the high-flying Tigers. No team has come out on top against Alabama thus far this season, but if Clemson is able to play to its strengths, one of which includes having the best quarterback in the NCAA manning the offense, the Tigers are certainly capable of doing so. The rematch of last year’s thrilling championship game should be equally as thrilling as the opening act, with the undisputed top two teams in the nation battling it out for the ultimate college football glory.

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