Haven’t we had this game before? Alabama? Clemson? The FBS championship?
Why, my goodness, yes we did. Exactly one year ago as of Monday, 9 January.
The tumult, shouting, captains, and kings have left the building, and the usual suspects are still standing there, being all usual. It’s another episode of the Nick and Dabo Show. This CFP hybrid-playoffs thing is so much better than that ratty old BCS.
(OK, so there’s an argument that it could be. I can see the BCS putting Ohio State in the championship game because the Buckeyes never had to play Clemson in this past season – and that could well have been the wrong call. On the other hand, we don’t really know. Playoffs are playoffs, and judges’ councils are judges’ councils. And teams are teams, for that matter. Sometimes they all behave stupidly, or just behave stupidly separately or in combination, to produce a long string of we’ll-never-know conundrums.)
Well. In the interest of saving time and a little shoe leather, we’ll refresh you on a few points from last year. Nick Saban is still not only handsome but a powerful man.
Dabo Swinney is still a big hunk-a Div I-A-beating coach walking around with a toddler’s nickname and the world’s savviest residuals wranglers.
They’re still doing something right, obviously (I mean, dismissing Lane Kiffin would raise Saban’s cred in my book big league, if such a thing were actually possible. Saban’s, like, my dude. Meanwhile, preemptive condolences to FAU).
But Swinney is too smart to be suckered by a spurious staff change. He knows the boot given to Kiffin won’t suddenly present him with a triple option offense, because as a championship-level head coach, he’s insightful like that.
Basically, almost everything going on with the coaches and their teams seems to be on the up-and-up as of now, and there’s just not a lot to sportsbabble about. Alabama has a couple of first string injuries on defense, but with the Tide’s depth on the D, it didn’t really matter in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (not nearly as much as the weirdly wasteful Kiffin offense), and it’s not likely to be a game-changer versus Clemson.
Clemson has Heisman-candidate QB Deshaun Watson healthy and prepped, so Alabama’s D will have its work cut out for it. The combination of Watson and WR Hunter Renfrow has been notoriously lethal for many a defense in the Tigers’ 13-1 season. Then there are just Watson’s own legs, which probably require him to travel as checked luggage under TSA rules. On any given Monday you’d expect Alabama to handle the Clemson shebang, but – and maybe it’s just us – something feels a little funny this time. Like Clemson might really take this one, by 3 or so.
The oddsquad favors Alabama by 6.5. Set your alarms for 8 PM EST on Monday, 9 January, at Ray-Jay in Tampa. (Or on ESPN, for the vast majority of us who can’t be there in person.)
We know you saw James Madison win the FCS title today with a convincing 28-14 victory over Youngstown State. It just didn’t seem right having an FCS championship game without North Dakota State, but JMU and YSU gave us a good show. Congratulations to the Dukes, and a hearty well done to the Penguins for their accomplishments this year.
Honorable mention to today’s Army All-American Bowl, the high school blowout, in which East defeated West 27-17.
It’s wild card weekend in the pay-for-play division, and Houston is up 13-7 on Oakland at this writing.
Detroit (9-7) will be at Seattle (10-5-1) in a few hours, staring down a Seahawk give of 9. FWIW, we think the spread is optimistic for the Seahawks.
LU fave Pittsburgh (11-5) has its big outing hosting Miami (10-6) in the early slot on Sunday. We’re not real high on Miami, and as long as Roethlisberger gets the protection he needs, we can hang with most of the 11-point Steeler give. Cloudy and 15-ish at game-time.
The Giants (11-5) head to Lambeau to take on the Packers (10-6) in the Sunday late slot, with Green Bay giving 5.5. We’re sorry to report that surging FB Aaron Ripkowski has been put on the “questionable” list for tomorrow due to a shoulder injury. Mostly sunny and about 12 degrees F for the kickoff.
Our other playoff-bound fave, top-seeded NFC East champ Dallas, kicks into gear at a later date. No need to explain how many years Cowboy fans have been waiting to see a sentence like that again.