After all of the build up and preparation, the College Football Playoff national championship game is finally here. No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama have proven they are the two best teams in the country, now it’s time to find out which team is the best in the land.
There are plenty of intriguing matchups that will certainly have an impact on Monday night’s outcome. Here’s a breakdown of the four biggest:
Derrick Henry vs. the Clemson front seven
The Alabama tailback will look to cap his Heisman Trophy season with one last terrific performance. He ranks second in the nation with 147.2 rushing yards per game and leads the nation with 25 touchdowns.
However, yardage may not be easy to come by against Clemson’s stout front seven. The Tigers rank 18th in the nation in rushing defense with an average of 124.36 rushing yards allowed per game.
Clemson is also coming off of a spectacular performance against a high-powered Oklahoma running game that finished the season ranked 22nd in the nation. The Sooners were limited to 67 yards on 33 carries during the Orange Bowl.
Alabama will need to get Henry going, but it won’t be easy.
Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd vs. Cam Robinson and Dominick Jackson
This may be the most underrated matchup on Monday night, but it will be a tremendous one to watch. Clemson possesses a pair of excellent book-end defensive linemen in Lawson and Dodd. The tandem combined for 19.5 sacks on the season and could give Robinson and Jackson plenty to handle off the edge.
Quarterback Jacob Coker has been sacked 20 times this season and could be under plenty of duress if he’s forced to drop back often.
Lawson sustained a knee sprain against Oklahoma, but is expected to play on Monday.
Calvin Ridley vs. Mackensie Alexander
This will be contingent upon Alexander being able to play on Monday, but if he does this could be a great matchup.
Ridley might be the next great Alabama receiver, but he will have a tough matchup against one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. Ridley leads Alabama with 83 catches, 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He has an impressive skill set and can stretch the field with his speed.
Alexander didn’t record an interception this season, but was a coaches First-Team All-ACC selection. Alexander has excellent coverage skills in man coverage and could be testing the NFL waters after Monday’s game. Alexander is currently rated the No. 2 cornerback in the 2016 class by CBSSports.com.
If Alabama can’t get Henry going on the ground, it may need to rely on Ridley to win some battles against a shutdown cornerback in Alexander.
Jake Coker vs. Deshaun Watson
Last, but certainly not least is a battle between two quarterbacks who display drastically different styles. The Clemson offense runs through Watson, who uses his dual-threat abilities to keep defenses guessing. Watson has thrown for 3,699 yards and 31 touchdowns while running 187 times for 1,032 yards and 12 scores.
Coker is the auxiliary option in the offense behind Henry. He’s thrown for 2,775 yards and 19 touchdowns and is mainly a pocket passer. He’s ran 66 times this year, but only for 88 yards.
Both of these quarterbacks will be going up against stingy secondaries. The Tigers rank ninth in the nation in passing defense with an average of 177.2 passing yards allowed per game, while Alabama ranks 18th with an average of 186 passing yards allowed per game.
Alabama will hope to run its offense through its running game, but its title hopes could hinge on Coker’s ability to out-duel the versatile Watson.