The 2017 National Championship game is Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Everything there is to be said has been said. Alabama plays for its 17th claimed national title. Clemson plays for long-awaited national recognition and its first title since 1981.
AL.com has a Clemson cheat sheet ahead of the game and a rundown of the moments that got us here. Here are five players to watch on Monday night. Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl, has his own thoughts on how the game will play out. Sports Illustrated reached out to several coaches to get their anonymous thoughts.
The New York Times found a few reasons Clemson might win. O.J. Howard isn’t flying under the radar anymore, writes Chris Kirschner. Alex Martin Smith puts the “Saban v.s. Bryant” conversation in perspective. Marq Burnett has his 5 keys to the game. So does Dennis Dodd of CBS.
And if you read nothing else ahead of this last game, read this heart-wrenching story about Hootie Jones and his mother, who is battling stage IV cancer.
The media predicts the national championship
- Lane Kiffin predicts an Alabama win.
- FiveThirtyEight’s model gives Alabama a 62 percent chance of victory.
- Duane Rankin of The Montgomery Advertiser is picking Alabama.
- Kyle Mooty of the Eufaula Tribune likes Alabama and its defense.
- One AL.com writer predicts a field goal win for Clemson.
- Kevin Scarbinsky predicts continued dominance for Alabama.
- A Clemson insider also takes Clemson by one score.
- A Bleacher Report writer takes Clemson by a safety.
- Most of the CBS panel likes Clemson +6.5
- Five of Sports Illustrated’s seven picked Clemson.
- ESPN’s SEC crew is sticking with Alabama.
- USA Today’s group has some bold, non-score-specific predictions.
- And some fans are split more or less down the middle. Guess what the differentiating factor is.
Last week, we asked you for your own predictions against the spread. 80 percent of you liked Alabama to cover the 6.5 point spread. A further 16 percent picked Alabama to win by less than seven. Just 2 percent thought Clemson would win narrowly and another 2 percent liked the Tigers big.
As for me, I’ll take Alabama 28, Clemson 21.
- Steve Sarkisian’s roundabout path from potential TV analyst to national championship game play-caller, from Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News.
- The other Alabama assistants praised Sark’s demeanor over the last week.
- From Cecil Hurt, Dabo Swinney is the same old Dabo.
- Dabo was once an Alabama walk-on, if you haven’t heard.
- Because of that, his teams resemble Gene Stallings’ Alabama more than Nick Saban’s.
- Greg Sankey, meanwhile, downplayed any mention of an Alabama dynasty amid rumors of a public growing tired of the Crimson Tide.
- A look at the oft-ignored blocking prowess of Alabama’s receivers.
- Despite missing the playoff with a torn ACL, Shaun Dion Hamilton remains upbeat.
- A notebook on Clemson’s Alabama ties, praise from Saban for Bryant and a heartwarming gesture to an Alabama legacy by Swinney.
- Blake Sims was the latest Alabama alumnus to join practice.
- Remember that onside kick? It was a surprise to everyone in the stadium — except one.
- Speaking of special teams, Trevon Diggs addresses his approach to rugby kicks.
- Clemson is determined not to have a repeat performance on special teams.
- Alabama is famous for its running back depth. Here’s what it’s like to compete for one of those spots.
- Its also famous for a bloodthirsty, ball-hawking defense.
- “Rashaan Evans’ turn at middle linebacker is a trip.” Get it?
- A summary of the coaches’ final press conferences.
- Alabama’s players aren’t happy that anyone is picking Clemson.
- Roll Bama Roll breaks down Alabama’s pass rush and Clemson’s read option.
The slate for Monday doesn’t feature our regular star, Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson, but read this excellent profile of the breakout comedian by Christopher Smith, then watch linebacker Mack Wilson’s comedic chops, below.
Now, check out this missive from Adam Kramer at Bleacher Report, calling Wilson ‘the most-feared backup punter in America.’
Built by Bama
- Justin Thomas won the SBS Tournament of Champions. His friend, Jordan Spieth, called the win ‘potentially floodgate-opening.’
- Landon Collins had 9 tackles, including a sack, as his Giants fell to the Packers in the opening round of the NFL playoffs. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had 2 tackles for the winning side.
- Kenyan Drake had 101 yards on 3 kickoff returns, including a 58-yard return, as his Dolphins crashed out of the playoffs against the Steelers.
- Alonzo Gee signed a 10-day contract with the Nuggets.
Punting is winning
Around the Capstone
- Women’s basketball won its first road conference game in nearly three years.
- Men’s basketball improved to 2-0 in the SEC after beating Vanderbilt.
- Men’s swimming beat LSU in Baton Rouge.
- Despite a consistent showing, the No. 3 gymnastics team fell to No.1 Oklahoma by more than a point on the road.
That should be enough reading to get you through a distracted workday. Enjoy the game Monday night and I’ll see you on the other side.