Alabama vs. Clemson - 2016 College Football Championship - Chat Sports Staff Picks

Well, our pre-season staff picks for the College Football Playoff were WAY off, with only James and Suzi predicting 2 of the 4 playoff teams, with everyone else shooting air balls or picking 1 of the 4 teams. But, looking at all other sports publications pre-season predictions, we had a lot of company in not having a firm grip back in August on how good Clemson and Alabama would be season

Clemson and Alabama will face each other tonight in Glendale, AZ at 8:30pm ET on ESPN, or using one of the many streaming options available on the wild west of the internet.

Our staff gives their analysis and prediction for the game below, as well as predicting a game MVP. Enjoy.

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Justin Lee @justinclarkelee

It’s hard to bet against Nick Saban’s version of the Evil Empire, especially with how dominant Bama’s front seven has been since getting slapped by Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa. However, this Clemson spread offense is an underrated, multifaceted beast built to stretch out athletic front sevens from sideline to sideline -- the right offense at the right time to give Alabama fits.

Alabama RB Derrick Henry will get his, but he may have to shoulder 35-40 carries yet again as QB Jacob Coker throws against a top-ten Clemson secondary. He’s done it all year, but you have to think the workload will catch up sooner or later. On the other side, Deshaun Watson is the perfect dual-threat quarterback to misdirect Alabama’s defensive front and pick up yards in chunks. It’ll be a fun one, but Clemson will spoil Bama’s dynasty plans with their second-ever national title.

Prediction: Clemson 27-23

Game MVP:  Deshaun Watson


Tom Downey @whatgoingdowney

My original playoff predictions were a total disaster, but we’re not going to talk about that. I picked Clemson to beat Alabama at the start of bowl season and I’m sticking with it. 

QB Deshaun Watson is incredible and the Tigers’ defense is loaded with NFL-caliber players. Alabama is a great team, but Clemson's offense is the right type of scheme to give them problems. This is Clemson’s year to win the National Championship.  

Prediction: Clemson 35-28

Game MVP: Deshaun Watson


Brian Rauf @brauf33

Clemson has started slow in all of their games against ranked teams this season, trailing at halftime (or within two seconds of halftime) in three of those four. Quarterback Deshaun Watson - who is even better than advertised - has been able to lead the Tigers to explosive second halves in those games, keeping Clemson undefeated.

However, no team is better playing with the lead than this Alabama team with Heisman winner Derrick Henry. They will shorten the game by repeatedly running the ball straight down the middle, picking up five to seven yards at a time. Clemson will continually answer the Tide’s scores in the second half, but Alabama won’t let the Tigers make up the ground they will lose in the first half.

Prediction: Alabama 34-30

Game MVP: Derrick Henry


James Yoder @jamestyoder

When I made my preseason pick of Alabama to win the national championship, I based the pick on 3 things: 1. Preseason “greatest teams ever”, as Ohio State was being proclaimed, almost never won the championship. 2. Alabama has by far the most talent and depth of any team in the country (despite what Ohio State fans will tell you) 3. Nick Saban is their coach - he’s 4-0 in national championship games..

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None of these facts have changed, so I am sticking with the pick. Now, as far as this game goes, I have to think back to September of 2012, when I was convinced that Michigan QB Denard Robinson was going to run all over Alabama in the season opener in Dallas...only to be completely shut down by a dominate Tide defense. People who are picking Clemson are basing the pick on Deshaun Watson being a dual-threat QB that will give Saban’s defense fits, similar to my Denard Robinson conviction in 2012. As popular as the “Saban struggles with dual-threat quarterbacks” line of thinking is, it is completely unfounded - he doesn’t. The only 2 QB that have given Saban challenges are perhaps 2 of the best to ever play the game: Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton. Watson is neither. 

In this game, Alabama goes back to what got them into the playoffs with a steady dose of Derrick Henry (predicting 35+ carries) and a defensive line rotation in 9 players who will terrorize Watson. I believe this game will look like many of Alabama’s bowl games in the past - the Tide start slow, explode in the 2nd quarter, and roll to a relatively easy win. Henry puts up 200 yards and 2 TD.

Prediction: Alabama 27-7

Game MVP: Derrick Henry


Brett Scott @bscott0527

Clemson was my only good pick when we predicted the CFP at the beginning of the season, so I’m going to stick with the Tigers. If Clemson wins, it’s going to be a tight affair, and Deshaun Watson will have to have a monster game without turnovers.

Alabama looked invincible last week against Michigan State, but Watson and the Tigers have much more potency than the Spartans. I expect a battle, and maybe even a great game that makes up for a lack of great bowl games this season.

Prediction: Clemson 27-24

Game MVP: Deshaun Watson


Suzi Alvarez @suzialvarez

I tapped ‘Bama for the CFP before the season started. Veteran leadership counts in big games, and Saban coaches impeccably under pressure. As a team, the Tide have more playoff experience than the Tigers. Derrick Henry is clearly a force to be reckoned with, but don’t overlook Jake Coker’s performance in the last three games: he’s completed 73.2% of his passes for 669 yards and thrown five touchdowns with no interceptions. 

Alabama’s offense put up 38 points against Michigan State, and this match-up is actually more favorable. Scoring might start off pretty slow in this one, but it’ll be a shootout by the end. 

Prediction: Alabama 28-24

Game MVP: Nick Saban. Just kidding. Derrick Henry


Al King @AlKing906

The Crimson Tide will win this game. Nick Saban wins big games, Jake Coker is finally playing the way Coker was supposed to play when he came out of high school. If he can play the way he did in the Cotton Bowl, there is no way the Tide lose this one. I haven’t even mentioned Heisman Winner Derrick Henry yet. The Clemson defense is going to sell out on trying to stop Henry while Lane Kiffin will look to find ways to exploit that. 

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is a special player with elite talent, the only problem is that is Watson doesn’t have a great game then the Tigers won’t win. Clemson doesn’t have as many options as Alabama to win the game. The Tide holds the advantage on defense, experience and special teams. Those factors and more will lead to the Alabama victory.

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Prediction: Alabama 30-23

Game MVP: Jake Coker (what an ending that would be for him)


Josh Greene

This is going to be a classic matchup of offense vs defense and old power vs new power. Rush yards will be at a premium. I expect the Tiger D to do everything it can to stop Derrick Henry and live with the results. Alabama is very good with play action and have extremely underrated receivers in Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart. Their performance will have a huge affect on the game.

With that being said, Clemson has the best player at the most important position on the field in Deshaun Watson. His decision making is his best talent. I don’t think he will run for a lot of yards, so the Tigers will need to rely on their quick passing game and screens. I believe Watson will make just enough plays to give Clemson the win.

Prediction: Clemson wins 23-19

Game MVP: Deshaun Watson


Arnold Syphommarath @asyphommarath

In the past 110 years, Alabama is 12-0 vs Clemson and Bama won those 12 games by a combined score of 390-54 or an average of 33-5. They also shutout Clemson in 7 of those 12 games. 

Clemson is a great team but they won’t be able to keep up with the Bama for 4 quarters. It will be  Sweet 16th National Title for the Tide. 

Prediction: Alabama 31-14

Game MVP: Derrick Henry


Jeffrey Griffin

The Clemson Tigers roll into this game hoping to finish an astonishing season undefeated. The Tigers face their toughest opponent of the season against an Alabama team that’s been unblemished since an early-season loss to Ole Miss. The Clemson offense will be able to score points, but the Tigers’ defense will have to face their tallest task of the year in stopping Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. 

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Alabama will need to use Henry effectively in order to keep Deshaun Watson and a potent Clemson offense off the field by sustaining long, time-consuming drives that result in touchdowns. Alabama will need to be able to create takeaways, which have forced Clemson into some close games this year. Both teams have some great weapons, but in the end, this game’s going to be decided by Alabama’s ability to run the football and control the line of scrimmage. Alabama’s success running the ball will put Clemson into a vulnerable position defending the pass against some of the most underrated wide receivers in the country.

Prediction: Alabama 37-27

Game MVP: Derrick Henry

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Related Topics: Deshaun Watson, Nick Saban, Clemson Tigers football news, Dabo Swinney, Jacob Coker, Derrick Henry, Alabama Crimson Tide Football News