Welcome to a second championship game between SEC schools.
When Alabama hits the field Monday night against Clemson in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, several of the Crimson Tide's players will step onto very familiar turf. That's OK. It gets a gig at Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Monday that is more important, against the Bulldogs, the last college team to win any kind of championship there.
In addition to its ability to light up the scoreboard and control the clock, the Clemson defense is one of the strongest in the nation and should be ready for a battle with Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.
For the third straight season, Alabama and Clemson square off in the postseason. In fact, while many Clemson players continue to regard Alabama as the standard in college football, they also exude a quiet confidence that they are every bit the Crimson Tide's equal, and that can go a long way. But any thoughts of a rally were snuffed out by the time the third quarter was done when Alabama scored its two quick TDs.
It sounds a lot like Hurts' sophomore season at Alabama - plenty of wins without the gaudy statistics. Alabama defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne has been calling for his shot near the goal line all season. That drive was stopped with an interception by Payne near midfield.
Jennings posted five tackles, including three for loss and a sack. He also pressured well and "retraced" from the back side to make stops on shallow crossing routes that have been effective for Clemson.
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Last season, due to a midseason-injury to former safety Eddie Jackson, Fitzpatrick had to move to safety in the second half of the year, thus taking him away from the line of scrimmage. The Crimson Tide quarterback does not throw interceptions, and his ability to avoid mistakes is a big advantage. Trailing 10-6 in the third quarter, Clemson was driving to take a potential 13-6 lead.
Alabama jumped on Clemson early in the game, scoring 10 points in the first quarter, including a Calvin Ridley touchdown reception.
On Oklahoma's first possession, the Heisman victor completed all four of his passes in an 80-yard drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown. But he wasn't flawless - he badly underthrew Ridley on a wide-open flea-flicker deep pass for an incompletion. Clemson finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 44-yard field goal by Alex Spence, which capped a 54-yard, 13-play drive.
The Crimson Tide were the first to score with a 24-yard field goal from Any Pappanastos. Clemson's defense was still Clemson's defense and held Alabama to only 4.0 yards per play.
Clemson finished with 188 total yards while Alabama had 259 and the Tigers' two turnovers were just too much to overcome as they both resulted in touchdowns for the other team. After being stuffed on second down, the Alabama football staff believed a power run would not gain five yards. Alabama still leads 10-6.