Kirk Herbstreit thinks Alabama will end up the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff, but doesn’t see the Crimson Tide as the favorite to win the national championship.
That title belongs to the Clemson Tigers, according to the ESPN analyst.
“I learned nine years ago just move past Alabama. Just skip them. Forget the Iron Bowl, forget the SEC Championship game,” Herbstreit said following Tuesday night’s rankings release. “We will see them in the Peach Bowl because they get the home game as the No. 1 seed.
“Just put them in Atlanta. Beyond them, I still think Clemson is the team to beat. As much as I love Alabama’s potential, I still think Deshaun Watson and that defense from Clemson are the real deal and don’t think anybody is going to be able to beat Clemson, including in the SEC Championship game.”
The Tigers — along with Alabama, Michigan and Washington — are one of four undefeated teams remaining and earned a No. 2 mark in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Crimson Tide topped Clemson, 45-40, in last year’s national championship, and have looked like the nation’s top team in 2016.
The Tigers have played tight contests against Auburn, Troy, Louisville, North Carolina State and Florida State this season, but that doesn’t alter Herbstreit’s opinion.
“I think Clemson is the team to beat in the playoff. I think they’re the team. I felt that way at the beginning of the year. I know they’ve had some games when they’ve turned it over. There have been times when they seem like they don’t quite have the urgency.
“I think now that they are in the month of November, I think there is a different intensity about them. I think when they play their best on both sides of the ball. I think they are going to be a tough out for Alabama or forever else who they end up playing.”