Sequels and remakes are all the rage in the movie business, though not always a great idea.
Tom Cruise took in the first college football game of his life when Florida played at LSU a couple of years ago. He was in Louisiana filming a sequel in his “Jack Reacher” series at the time.
But, Tom, remaking “The Mummy” last year? Not what you’d call all the right moves.
When it comes to college football remakes with national championship implications starring Alabama and Clemson, please, give us more.
One more, with feeling.
If Monday night’s CFP semifinal showdown in the Allstate Sugar Bowl is anything like the last two meetings between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers, this one should be a blockbuster.
Alabama won the first installment 45-40 out in the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix, with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson chunking passes around the Valley of the Sun until time ran out. A year later he was back with Clemson in Tampa, Florida, throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with :01 left to burst Bama’s bubble of invincibility in a 14-karat thriller.
And now, the Bourbon Street tiebreaker. The Crescent City rubber match. The Superdome Showdown. The one that decides it all.
Well, maybe not decides it all. The winner has to gather up its emotions and recalibrate its schemes and playbooks for a game one week from now in Atlanta against the Rose Bowl survivor, Georgia or Oklahoma. If it’s the Bulldogs, the neighborhood brawl against either Alabama or Clemson will be epic.
So let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Not with this sweet Sugar Bowl plate of beignets before us. This isn’t a matchup to be chugged down like a brew in a beer-drinking contest in the French Quarter. This is a smooth libation to be savored at one of New Orleans’ classic old dining establishments after some classic seafood.
When it’s done, both Alabama and Clemson will have their national championships from the last couple of years. It’s not like they’re playing poker at a New Orleans casino, raising the ante with something the other can take away.
But the winner will have something extra. Not only ability to keep the flame of another potential championship season burning, but the chance to say that their program is the best the nation over.
It looked like a couple of years ago like Alabama would retire that title, but complete world domination is a constantly moving target. Something in the vicinity of trying to cling to the top of a greased pole.
If Alabama wins, the story remains the same. But what if Clemson wins, then goes on to capture a second straight national title after making a third straight championship game appearance?
Well, that shoves the unofficial “America's best” moniker to the east, to the tiny college town on the big lake in northwestern South Carolina. They’d probably put up a sign to that effect in front of the Esso Club. Surely there's a sign like that somewhere in Tuscaloosa.
Picking a winner in this matchup is difficult guesswork. The margin between these teams looks as thin as that folded piece of paper the ref used to call a first down in the Cowboys-Raiders game a few weeks back. Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant isn’t the passer Watson was, but he’s nifty with his feet. And these Tigers don’t appear to be as reliant on his arm as they were with his predecessor.
Don’t expect this one to be quite the shootout the first two Bama-Clemson CFP meetings were. Alabama’s defense, while seriously depleted in the linebacker corps, is still Alabama’s defense. Meanwhile, Clemson sports an Alabama-like trio of All-Americans on its defensive front in Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant. It’s not a claim the Crimson Tide can make.
If Clemson’s defense can keep Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts and his backfield mates from hurting the Tigers with the run, the Tigers will advance for the third straight year. And if that happens, the “Did Alabama deserve to be here?” questions will come flying in from the Midwest and West Coast tout suite.
They are sketchy questions to ask at best. You can make the argument that Bama didn’t deserve to make the playoff because it was at home parked in front of Nick Saban’s big-screen TV watching the conference championship games while Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma and two-loss Auburn (No. 2 at the time) were putting their seasons on the line. But the eye test tells you Alabama belongs because it’s impossible to name four better teams than the Crimson Tide that aren’t in the NFL.
Besides, we needed to see these two behemoths collide one more time. The lords of college football in pursuit of more championship rings needed to complete the trilogy, and college football fans are more enriched for it.