Written by Erik Slaby
San Jose, CA – If there has been one consistent in the crazy environment that is college football over the last four years, it’s that at some point, the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide will meet in a game with high stakes. This year is no different. Clemson and Alabama will face off in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game. This is also the third time in the last four years both teams have played against each other in the national championship game.
If there has been one other piece of consistency in these matchups, it’s the level of physicality that both defenses play with. While Alabama has long been known as a physical, hard-nosed defense, Clemson has only recently earned that recognition within the last few years. In part due to their level of domination over their conference opponents and how well they’ve played against Alabama. Alabama running back Damien Harris spoke about the physicality of Clemson and the importance of being physical at media day.
“It’s going to be an extremely physical game, all phases of the game offense, defense, special teams,” said Harris. “We know we have to come because whoever has been the more physical team in this game has always come out on top.” Harris added, “ultimately, we believe it comes down to who is the more physical team and who plays more disciplined football. I’m sure it won’t be no different this week.”
The Clemson defense is one of the best in the country this season. Their defense is 2nd in the country in total defense, 2nd in rushing defense and 1st in scoring defense. Clemson also leads the country in sacks with 52. At media day, Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley spoke about the challenge of playing against the Clemson defense.
“It’s a huge challenge,” said Locksley. “When you look at Clemson on defense, as I explained to our offensive players when we were going through our scouting report, they are a combination of Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia all in one. Their front seven, by far, is one of the better front sevens that we face. They have got length over there at the corner position. Two, tall long corners that run well and you can tell, see some of the leadership coming from out of the safety position.”
Though they have given fits to opponents all season from every level of the defense, the strength of the Clemson defense is their dominant defensive line.
The defensive line is led by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, defensive end Clelin Ferrell, and defensive end Austin Bryant. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence has also been an integral part of this defensive line but he will not be playing due to a banned substance suspension. Fortunately for Clemson though, they are extremely deep at defensive line. Defensive tackle Albert Huggins is one of those players. He got the start for Lawrence in the Cotton Bowl and performed well in a starting role. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables spoke at media day about Huggins’s performance in the Cotton Bowl.
“Albert just had a completely different — all of them had a completely different mindset when they knew Dexter wasn’t going to be in there,” said Venables. “So, I have a great appreciation for his stick-to-itiveness and his toughness and being ready for the moment and really, really played well.” Venables also added, “he’s got as much talent as anybody. And a week ago was a great opportunity for him to show that. Albert’s played a ton of meaningful snaps the last few years. Dexter, as a matter of fact, a year ago was about 50 percent of who he is now and missed three or four games a year ago, and Albert stepped in and played really good. So played well last week, and obviously, that helps going into this game.”
In order for Clemson to win on Monday, in addition to playing well on offense and special teams, they will need to perform at a high level on defense. Alabama is too good offensively and as a team to have a down day against them. As they’ve shown several times over the years, if you do not perform at the top of your game, they will take advantage of it. If both Alabama and Clemson live up to their usual high standards, the college football world will sure to be entertained by another great game. And the tone will be set on the first defensive play of the game.
Alabama and Clemson will play in the 2019 CFP National Championship game at Levi Stadium. The game will kick off at 8:15 EST and will be televised on ESPN.