The Clemson Tigers have navigated a difficult schedule in order to get back to where their 2015 season unceremoniously ended: the national championship. Clemson will get its chance to exact revenge on the Alabama Crimson Tide in a rematch of last year's title game. Clemson (13–1) didn’t coast through the season to get to this point. They struggled with opponents like Troy and NC State, and they dropped a game to Pittsburgh at home. However, this team has beaten top-level opponents like No. 14 Auburn, No. 11 Florida State, and No. 13 Louisville. They defeated No. 22 Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, and they dominated No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Below are three reasons Clemson will win the national championship.
There are very few quarterbacks in the nation who are better than Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. A two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, Watson is one of the few active quarterbacks to ever succeed against Alabama’s vaunted defense. In last year’s national championship game against Alabama, Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed for 73 yards on 20 carries. Watson's performance represented the third-most yards ever allowed by a Nick Saban defense. Saban has compared Watson to NFL star Cam Newton. Alabama has the best defense in the country, but if there’s any quarterback that can perform well against it, it’s Deshaun Watson.
Watson is far from Clemson's only weapon. Running back Wayne Gallman has rushed for 1,087 yards and 16 touchdowns. Gallman is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Even more than the running game, however, the Tiger's receivers have game-breaking ability. They represent the program's best group since 2012, when NFL stars DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, and Sammy Watkins all played for Clemson. This year, Watson has plenty of weapons that are capable of challenging Alabama’s secondary. Mike Williams is Clemson’s number one receiver. He has drawn comparisons to former Lions star Calvin Johnson. The Tigers also have speedsters Artavis Scott and Deon Cain. And don't forget Hunter Renfrow, who compiled 88 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama last year. Throw in NFL-bound tight end Jordan Leggett and Clemson’s receivers will be Bama’s biggest challenge of the year.
Clemson’s defense is often overlooked, but this ferocious unit, led by defensive coordinator Brent Venables, can wreak havoc on any team. The eighth-ranked unit in the country has the capability of rattling Alabama’s freshman quarterback, Jalen Hurts. It all starts in the trenches, where the Tigers' front seven is almost as powerful as Alabama’s. Clemson’s defensive line features run-stuffing linemen like Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and Dexter Lawrence. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell dominated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. The real heart of this defense, however, is tackling machine Ben Boulware (led the team with 110 tackles). The Tigers’ secondary is about equal to Alabama’s. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley anchors the unit, as he’s one of the premier corners in the ACC. Safety Jadar Johnson is capable of big hits, and fellow safety Van Smith rarely misses a tackle. Clemson has the defense to shut down Alabama’s somewhat limited offense and their freshman quarterback.
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