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It’s more than a rematch for Alabama and Clemson

When Alabama and Clemson meet in Tampa  Jan. 9, it’ll be more than just a rematch of last year’s national championship game in Arizona.

Both teams will be looking for redemption.

The Clemson Tigers want revenge. Head coach Dabo Swinney and his Tigers came up just short in their 45-40 shootout loss to Alabama in the desert and want to take down the team that derailed their perfect season last year on the biggest stage. Quarterback Deshaun Watson lit up the Tide for 478 total yards of offense and four passing touchdowns, but it still wasn’t enough.

Clemson wants another shot at the gold standard of college football and their first national title since 1981.

Why would Alabama want redemption, you ask? They beat Clemson last year. This is just another game for them. Wrong.

The Alabama defense gave up 40 points and 550 total yards of offense to Clemson last year. You don’t think the vaunted Crimson Tide defense wants to prove a point this time around? Even in victory, the Alabama defense from last year’s team that are still there want another shot at Watson to prove last year was a fluke.

I think it’s safe to say that the two playoff semifinal games on Saturday weren’t entertaining at all. Alabama dominated Washington in the Peach Bowl 24-7 and Clemson dismantled Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, shutting out Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer for the first shutout of his career.

It’s also safe to say that Alabama is the current dynasty in college football and maybe in sports all around. With a win against Clemson Monday night, Alabama and head coach Nick Saban will have five national titles in eight seasons, beating Clemson in back-to-back seasons.

Last year’s national title game was exciting as ever with 40 combined points in the fourth quarter and an Alabama onside kick that changed the outcome of the game in favor of the Tide. Monday night in Tampa has the potential to be just as good, if not better for many reasons.

Clemson has the best player in college football in quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist two years in a row for a reason. The quarterback leads a potent Tiger offense with his arm and legs. Over 14 games, Watson completed over 67 percent of his passes for 4,173 yards with 38 touchdowns. Watson also rushed for 586 yards and eight more touchdowns. The Achilles heel with Watson over the season has been turnovers. Watson tends to force a lot of passes into tight windows, resulting in interceptions. Watson threw 17 interceptions over the course of the season and put his team in tight spots in some games. The Alabama defense will need to force Watson into some bad throws and create turnovers in order to win the football game.

The Clemson defense has been playing their best football of the season as of late. Clemson shut out a strong Ohio State offense in the Fiesta Bowl and have held three of their last four opponents to less than 14 points.

Alabama is going through a drastic change on offense with the early departure of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Kiffin will not be the offensive coordinator for the national championship game and replacement Steve Sarkisian will take over for the game.

This could have a huge impact on the offense, especially since the offense struggled against Washington, only putting up 24 points and 326 yards of offense. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled in the Peach Bowl, going 7-14 through the air for only 57 yards. The play of Hurts and his relationship with Sarkisian will be the difference maker for a struggling Crimson Tide offense that will look to get back on track against Clemson.

If the Tide wants to roll Monday night, they’ll need to lean on sophomore running back Bo Scarborough like they did against Washington, where he rushed for 180 yards and two scores. The ground game will take the pressure of Hurts and not force him to be a hero Monday night.

Clemson has the advantage this time around in the rematch against Alabama. The Tigers have the more experienced quarterback, a better offense, and a bigger chip on their shoulders to finish the job. The game will be high scoring like last year, with Clemson coming out on top this time. I’m predicting Clemson wins 38-34.

Sports editor Dylan Rubino can be reached at dylan.rubino@dailyleader.com