Written by Ernie Casanova
SAN JOSE, CA— There was media day here in beautiful San Jose during the weekend, with several members of different news organizations ready to ask players from both Alabama and Clemson some questions ahead of Monday’s powerhouse matchup. Each team’s quarterback and running back were present at a podium, with some defensive players also available for questioning at their own. The rest were scattered throughout the inside of the SAP Center, but there was no trouble in tracking them down. If they weren’t hanging out in the back playing PlayStation 4, they were visible at one of the round tables ready to answer what was thrown at them.
Crimson Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa had the most media present around him, considering the news from early this week about having some 400 family members attending the game. “You can’t ask me,” states Tagovailoa. “I don’t even know if that’s true or not. I don’t know who said that or where that source came from. I understand there is a lot of family members that we have in California, but 400, I don’t know how you can get that many tickets.” Tagovailoa, who was the Maxwell Player of the Year award winner, is looking forward to his first matchup against a Clemson team that’s familiar with Nick Saban and Alabama as a whole. This will be the fourth year in a row that the Crimson Tide has had to square off against the Tigers, with it being the third time in the National Championship. Tua was present last year during the Tide’s Sugar Bowl rout of Clemson, but QB Jalen Hurts was the starter at that time.
“This is my first time getting the opportunity to play them, so not really. We know that they have a good front seven. They have a pretty good secondary as well. We’re looking forward to the challenges as a team.”
Alabama holds the sixth-ranked passing offense in the nation, with the majority of that ranking coming from the different style of play Tagovailoa has to offer compared to Hurts. While Hurts is as talented as a QB can be, Tagovailoa adds a much more different dynamic to this Alabama offense. Throwing for more than 40 touchdowns and only four interceptions, Tagovailoa has changed the narrative of how you view the Crimson Tide’s offense. It went from a run-heavy and short passing game to an air raid of a show that makes it hard for opposing defenses to expect, let alone keep up.
Clemson, on the other hand, has the number one ranked scoring defense and specializes in adding pressure to whatever opposing QB is on their schedule. The Tigers also rank second in rushing defense so Alabama will have to focus on contingency plans in case the running game or passing game doesn’t come into full effect. The Crimson Tide running back group has rushed for almost 2000 yards and 22 touchdowns, and it will be interesting to see how Clemson’s defensive line will fare against a multi-talented offense far from one-dimensional as people would say.
Tigers Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables is certainly aware of any adjustments Alabama can make, and he is far from second-guessing the opponent’s offensive ability.
“It’s him. His accuracy, his competitiveness, his athletic ability, his ability to improvise,” mentions Venables of Tagovailoa. “He’s got the best players on the planet around him at every position, and they’re two and three deep. They get whoever they want, and they’ve got them all on their roster right now. They probably have offered maybe 15 percent of the guys that are on our team and on our side of the ball on defense. I bet you that might be pushing it, maybe a corner, maybe two corners and a D-lineman. After that, they ain’t offering any of our guys. Maybe Tre Lamar. I think Tre Lamar too. So that being said, just they’ve got great, great skill. They’ve got great size and physicality up front. And they’ve got the best of the best across the board — the tight end that’s all world. So that helps too. But Tua in himself is a monster to handle. And just again, his accuracy is just like our guy. Everybody loves Trevor Lawrence, and that’s who Tua is. And Trevor’s a very good athlete, but I think Tua’s a little bit different in some ways, from a mobility standpoint, just different.”
Exactly what he said. Different. What also might be different is the style of matchup these two will give us compared to recent years. It’s pretty much unpredictable, but isn’t that what we wanted from the CFP? I think so.