Alabama gets a shot at revenge when it plays Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal, but the Tide can’t roll through last year’s roadblock without taking it to the air.
In last January’s national title game loss, Hurts struggled on the way to 13-for-31 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Speaking on the Monday Opening Drive, ESPN’s Chris Low put the burden on Hurts and the passing game to carry Alabama past Clemson and back to the big stage.
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“The big thing, they’ve got to throw the football better, and I don’t mean they got to throw it 35 or 40 times, but they got to be more effective … particularly down the field,” Low said. “Think about the last couple times Alabama has lost football games. What’s been the common denominator? They struggled in the passing game.”
Against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Alabama only managed to complete a little over 56 percent of its passes for 103 yards and a TD.
Low makes it clear that the responsibility isn’t all on Hurts to change that narrative. The execution needs to pick up in every phase, and the coaching staff has to use all its weapons to keep the Tigers’ defense guessing.
“It’s not just the quarterback. They got to play better around him, they got to protect, they got to get guys open, guys to separate, guys to make some plays down the field, run routes the way they’re supposed to run … Clemson is so good up front, and they’re so strong in their front seven that even as good as Alabama is, they’re not going to let Alabama run up and bully them all day long. They’re too good for that.”
Clemson is the defending national champion, it’s proven it can beat Alabama on the big stage and it enters the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed. However, the Tide still opened as a 3-point favorite.
The two teams will meet in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on New Year’s Day with kickoff scheduled for 8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN.