1. Regarding Henry
Derrick Henry ran for an SEC record 2,061 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2015, but he had only 75 yards against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. Instead, Alabama went with the deep ball, Jake Coker finding Calvin Ridley time and again. The growing diversity of Bama’s offense must give Clemson coach Dabo Swinney insomnia.
2. Elementary, Watson
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist with an ACC record for total offense (4,731 yards), rushing for 1,032. Tigers tailback Wayne Gallman (1,482 yards) is a potent sidekick, but Alabama has to keep Watson, who averages 5.5 yards per carry (Henry averages 5.7), from beating it with his feet.
3. Defense wins titles
The defense that neutralizes the other’s star player best is likely to win. Bama’s front seven is bordering on legend, especially after shutting out Michigan State 38-0. Clemson’s defense is better than people think but desperately needs All-America defensive end Shaq Lawson (MCL sprain in the Orange Bowl) to play a meaningful role.
4. And the winner is …
Clemson’s offensive balance is exceptional, and no team possesses the dual rushing threat of Watson and Gallman. The challenge is great for Alabama’s defense, but so is the Crimson Tide’s talent and depth. The Tigers will move the ball and score, but it won’t nearly be enough this time.
Prediction: Alabama 34, Clemson 17