In the week leading up to the College Football Playoff championship game between No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama, there will be a number of predictions about how the game will go. One former Clemson star thinks the game might not be as close as some are predicting.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was one of the most lethal wideouts for the Clemson Tigers from 2010-12, will get to watch his former team do something he never had the opportunity to — play for a national championship. Next Monday evening, Clemson will face Alabama in University of Phoenix stadium for college football’s ultimate prize. Although Alabama is already a 7-point favorite to win, Hopkins has a different idea of how the game will go.
“Clemson by 14,” Hopkins said via ESPN. “We have a high-powered offense. I don’t think they’ve seen that since Johnny Manziel. I don’t think they’ve seen a quarterback like Deshaun Watson since Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton.”
Hopkins is right about Watson potentially already having an advantage, given how much Nick Saban defenses at Alabama have struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks. The aforementioned Manziel upset Alabama in 2012, and the following season he torched Alabama’s secondary by completing 72% of his passes and throwing five touchdowns in a 49-42 loss.
Newton rallied his Tigers back from a 24-point deficit to beat the Tide 28-27 in 2010, while throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another score.
A side of history that Clemson is on the wrong side of, however, is its record against Alabama teams. Alabama has won the last 12 meetings between the two programs, dating back to the Tigers’ only wins against the Crimson Tide in 1904 and 1905. But Hopkins isn’t too concerned about that statistic, citing the mentality that this Clemson team had from the start of the season.
“It was kind of national championship or bust just from talking to people there,” Hopkins said. “I got some family that still part of the team. Just their mindset coming in this season was championship or bust; that’s the way they’re playing.”