TAMPA, Fla. — Alabama football (14-0) faces Clemson (13-1) on Monday in the College Football Playoff national championship game. Kickoff from Raymond James Stadium is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Here are five things to watch:
5. Sark attack
Nick Saban booted the Lane Train in favor of a Sark Attack. For those of you living under a rock, Lane Kiffin won’t coach Alabama’s offense in the national championship game.
Steve Sarkisian, who Saban hired to replace Kiffin, will step in early and lead the Crimson Tide against Clemson. That means instead of having to wait until next season to see how Saban and Sarkisian will interact on the sideline, we’ll get a crash course on Monday.
Sarkisian hasn’t called plays in over a year, so it’ll be interesting to see how the offense flows. Saban and the players have talked all week about how things won’t change much, but don’t be surprised if we see a new wrinkle or two against the Tigers.
4. Run the dang ball
Sarkisian’s first order of business should be to give Clemson a steady diet of Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs.
In other words, run the dang ball. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts didn’t play his best game against Washington and the offense relied heavily on the running game, particularly Scarbrough. Scarbrough had the best game of his career against the Huskies, running for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Alabama must create offensive balance to take pressure off Hurts. That starts with running the ball and setting up play-action to keep Clemson’s talented defense guessing.
3. Calling all playmakers
Saban talked during his Wednesday news conference about how Alabama needs to get more playmakers involved in the offense. Outside of Scarbrough, no other skill player gained more than 50 yards against Washington.
O.J. Howard was the leading receiver with 4 catches. No other player had more than one, according to the final stat book.
It took a complete team effort for Alabama to beat Clemson last season. That may be the case again this year, which means the Tide’s offense must play its best game of the season.
2. Time to prove it
Alabama’s defense clearly has a chip on its shoulder. Clemson amassed 40 points and 550 yards of offense in the title game last season.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He also ran for 73 yards.
If Alabama’s defense wants to avenge last season’s performance and show it’s one of Saban’s best ever, it will have to stop Watson and Co. on Monday.
1. Chasing history
Alabama is one win from becoming the first team in college football history to finish a season 15-0. This group also would be just the second team during Saban’s tenure to finish without a loss (2009).
We’ve talked all year about how this is potentially Saban’s best team at Alabama. Now it’s time for the Tide to make history.