Today’s the day! The Clemson Tigers face off against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Outback Bowl National Title Game in Tampa, Florida. Last year’s game was an onside kick and a miracle drive away from being competitive, and this year’s Tigers squad is probably better.

Tail of the Tape:

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A quick google search tells me that elephant tails are 4-5 feet long and tiger tails are 2-3.5 feet long. 5 minus 4 is 1 and 3.5 minus 2 rounds up to 2 and here we are, 1vs2 for all the marbles.

Alabama is 14-0 after waltzing through what has shown to be a mediocre SEC this year. Their toughest game was a trip to Dixie-land against Ole Miss. The Runnin Re Bears (let’s keep things PC here) jumped out to a 24-3 lead before a fantastic implosion that saw Saban’s evil empire Roll (Tide Roll) a 45-6 run up on Swag Kelly and Co. This was the game that the Crimson Tide’s freak beast of a defensive lineman, Jonathan Allen leaped onto the national stage.

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In addition to surviving a scare against Ole Miss, Alabama also knocked off LSU and Auburn in two of the most boring games hated rivals can give us, and beat the Rose and Outback Bowl Champions by a combined score of 106-22. In fairness, the USC victory came before the switch to Sam Darnold when the offense was so impotent, a lack of Trojans in the end zone was more than just a naughty pun.

The victory against Florida though was impressive. For the second straight year, the Tide blocked a punt from team MVP, Johnny Townsend to get an early jump on the Gators. Florida, known for their big game prowess in the post-Tebow era, went to 1-10 in games against Florida State in Alabama since their savior’s departure.

If this part seems dull, it’s because the only people who had worse 2016’s than Alabama’s opponents were Gawker readers. The tide have trailed in four straight games though so it remains to be seen if Clemson will be the fire that burns them.

The Tigers went 13-1 this year and won the ACC, a conference that has seemingly been unable to receive the credit it probably deserves over the last few years. The ACC joins the Big10 and Alabama as the only conferences with participants in all three playoffs to this point.

Their one loss was a shootout to James Connor and Pittsburgh, the same team that kept Penn State out of the playoff. They did survive scares against (insert almost every team they played except for Wake and Syracuse). Clemson had a major issue this year with playing up or down to its competition struggling to put teams away that they should’ve handled. An optimist would argue that they truly only had one goal, and that’s arrived.

Clemson knocked off Orange Bowl champion, Florida State in a fantastic game in Tally. They also beat the Heisman Trophy winner before his offensive line quit football and held off Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. Their best win without a doubt was their latest, where they so graciously gave Urban Meyer an extra week to spend with his family to the tune of 31-0.

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Alabama-Clemson is not without some off-field drama. Against Ohio State (and apparently a few other times), the Tigers were caught sticking their claws a bit too close to the Buckeyes’ nuts. Was this dirty football? Of course not, according to Ben Boulware, Clemson’s stud middle linebacker who totally doesn’t have a history of being a complete psychopath.

Boulware calmly explained that Clemson’s critics were simply nerds who didn’t jump in the team showers after big wins….. or something.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Lane Kiffin’s apparent immaturity and allergy to responsible behavior, the Tide are handing play calling duties to a guy who was fired from his previous job for showing up to practices and alumni events drunk off his ass. “From Tinder to Bender: The Story of the Crimson Tide’s Play-Calling”

For two teams who have been on a collision course for the majority of the year, it’s kind of a shame that Kiffin’s departure and Boulware’s Boulshit (BOOM!) have taken up so much time on the airwaves and in the headlines. Because the truth of the matter is this:

This game features two quarterbacks who have scored an insane 80 combined touchdowns this year and both have conference player of the year trophies on their mantles. These offenses also feature future first round picks in the passing game in Bama TE, OJ Howard, and Clemson Wideout, Mike Williams, who didn’t play in last year’s game.

Of all the wild card elements to this game, Williams is probably the most important. The 6’3 junior has 90 receptions for more than 1,200 yards and 10 TDs on the season. He’s fast enough to be used in a multitude of ways and has the size and strength to bully anyone who matches up against him.

Defensively, the battle between coordinators Jeremy Pruitt and Brent Venables is basically as good as you can get. Both have national titles on their resume as assistant coaches and both utilize some of the more exotic, aggressive defensive styles in the game today. The aforementioned Boulware and Allen are the two brightest stars, but Tide linebacker Reuben Foster and Clemson defensive tackle Carlos Watkins will also be playing on Sundays.

In many ways these two defenses really mirror each other. They both rely on early down success forcing teams into passing situations where their playmaking secondaries and aggressive front sevens can become terrors.

Both have young players making surprising impacts with freshman defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell adding some youth and explosion that last year’s Tiger team lacked. Sophomores Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick are human highlight reels in Alabama’s secondary.

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Verdict: Clemson 31 – Alabama 28

I don’t think this game is going to be the shootout that last year’s was. I don’t really have numbers to back this up more than just a gut feeling.

I think the switch to Sarkesian and Clemson’s desire to keep Bama’s defense and special teams out of the end zone will lead to a more conservative agenda from both teams at first before opening up a bit later.

I give Clemson the edge because Alabama’s passing game has been brutal of late. Part of that is because they haven’t really had to throw, but Jalen Hurts has regressed as a passer and Calvin Ridley and co don’t have the pop they had last year.

Meanwhile, Clemson has been waiting 363 days for this game. Their destruction of Ohio State showed that. Watch Deshaun Watson warm up before that game. Dude was jumping around the field like he knew that he was only “60 minutes” away from the rematch he and his team have been craving since their late onside kick failed to end the 2015 title game.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Clemson

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