2016 National Championship Preview

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If the 2015 National Championship expressed how the new College Football Playoff system can work to bring the best team to the top the 2016 version just proves the accuracy of the committee.

Only two years ago an equation was plugged into a computer to determine who the best two teams in the country were.

That all changed due to the issues that many had with a computer deciding the fate of two teams when there were so many other variables to consider.

The new CFP system created a committee of people involved in the schools and in football directly to vote and determine the rankings.

The committee was almost ignored last year when the Ohio State Buckeyes took home the title.

The Buckeyes barely made the top four but still beat the top two teams in the rankings.

Instead of criticizing the committee, who seemed pretty wrong with their rankings, the story was all about the inclusion of new teams that allowed the Buckeyes to be in the playoff at all.

This year it is the exact opposite as the committee is taking full focus for picking correctly this time around.

They did so in a big way too as they selected Clemson and Alabama as the top two teams for almost the entire duration of the CFP rankings.

They both entered the New Year’s Eve semi-finals as the two best teams in the country, although one was not a favourite in the game, and they proved the rankings right.football-sidebar

Neither saw much of a fight from the other team as both were clearly out to show just how good they can be.

The Tigers took their Orange Bowl win by a score of 37-17 easily beating the Oklahoma Sooners who were considered the favourites.

The Tigers were able to put up more than enough points thanks to Deshaun Watson and in the second half didn’t let the Sooners get anything.

After 17 points in the first half the Sooners had none in the second and the Tigers walked their way to the National Championship.

In the Cotton Bowl the dominance could not have been more complete when the Crimson Tide took on the Michigan State Spartans.

It was expected to be a defensive battle but only one defence really showed up as the Tide shut down the Spartans for the entire game.

They didn’t get a point as the Tide rolled to a 38-0 win that showed just how good they are this year.

For some the two semi-finals game was proof that the committee is doing a great job at deciding their rankings.

For others it expresses that the semi0finals are just pointless to see as neither game was worth watching.

One team was so much better than the other and in the old system neither game would have been a part of the bowl season.

Instead the Tigers and the Tide would have avoided those games and ended up playing each other at the same time anyway.

Either way you look at it the fact is that the two best teams in the country are in the national championship game the way that it should be.

The semi-finals could have been better but two dominant teams will get their biggest test of the year and it will be for the biggest prize in the NCAA.

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The Clemson Tigers have been ranked #1 in the CFP rankings since the beginning as they continued to stay undefeated throughout the year. Yet despite being the #1 team in the country and the only undefeated team in the country they remain an underdog. Their semi-final match-up was against the #4 Oklahoma Sooners and going in it seemed like the Tigers had everything going for them. That was if you asked a few people but the majority of people seemed to like the Sooners to win the game. The Tigers went into the game as the underdogs despite their undefeated season and their #1 ranking by the committee. The Tigers came out on top easily in that semi-final proving that their #1 ranking was the proper ranking to give them. They now enter the National Championship as the best team in the country once again but for the second time in these playoffs they are considered the underdog. This has been the basis of the entire season from the Tigers as head coach Dabo Swinney has ensured that the Tigers keep a chip on their shoulder and ensuring they all have fun while proving everyone wrong. It can be one of the most effective ways to help a team win and for Clemson that chip has been growing every year. Before Swinney was seen dancing in the locker room or promising a pizza party if they finished #1 Clemson was known for “Clemsoning.” It is a word created thanks to the ability of Clemson to look promising until they lost a big pressure game that kept them out of the national conversation. This year everyone was waiting for them to lose that game but they never did and remained the best team in the country. Now they have a chance to finish off their season and get rid of that reputation of blowing big games with what could be the best team Clemson has seen since their 1981 National Championship team.

This team, much like their opponents, has taken on the attitude of their head coach more this year than ever before. Swinney is an intense man who has time to just have fun and appreciate that he gets to coach football for a living. The team is the same as they are all about having fun playing but when it is time to get down to business that is what they do. The leader of the team on the field is sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson who was one of the three finalists for the Heisman this year and the only quarterback invited to New York. He provides plenty of problems for defences as the best of the dual-threat quarterback in the country. He can punish a secondary with a great arm and when they make attempts to stop it he can run it, he has over 1,000 yards rushing this year. His favourite target is Artavis Scott who has more than double the receptions of anyone else on the team but just under 900 yards. In the backfield is Wayne Gallman who has been solid and can break a run but is not the superstar of this team. They are a fairly balanced team as Watson leads the way with a total of 45 touchdowns while Gallman has added 12 himself, the same amount as Watson’s rushing touchdowns, and there are four receivers with five or more touchdowns. On defence the Tigers are led on and off of the field by Shaq Lawson, expected to be a high draft pick this year. Lawson wasn’t on the field most of the semi-final after a knee injury but he seems ready to return and add to his 10.5 sacks against a fairly static quarterback on Alabama. There are playmakers all over the field for the Tigers defence with another 9.5 sacks from Lawson’s battery mate Kevin Dodd and five interceptions from Cordrea Tankersley. The biggest challenge will be put to linebacker B.J. Goodson who leads the team with 98 tackles, he has also added 5.5 sacks and two interceptions. Goodson needs to stop the best rusher in the NCAA from Alabama and his success or failure will make the difference. The defence is not the star of the show but they have stood up all year and dealt with the challenge of Baker Mayfield in the semi-final. They will look to stop the problem of the Tide this time around and will still have that chip on their shoulder to prove they are the best team in the country and to eliminate their “Clemsoning” reputation.

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The Crimson Tide may play with a chip on their shoulder but that chip is entirely a made-up one as the Tide are anything but an underdog. They are the most powerful team in the most powerful conference in the NCAA and have continued to be favourites since nick Saban arrived on campus. The Tide are the definition of a powerhouse and in college football that is a tough thing to do as consistency is hard to come by. Year after year the Tide take in the best players every year in the recruiting class and are rarely considered of having an outside chance of winning the National Championship. Since Saban arrived in 2007 the Tide have won three National Championships to add to an impressive total of fifteen titles. While their opponents have fought the idea that they will always screw it up the Tide deal with the expectations that come with playing for the Tide. Those expectations cane weight large on the Tide and in many of their games they are playing teams who look to their Alabama game as the biggest game of the year. It is almost like being the Super Bowl champion but they deal with it every year. No team plays Alabama and gets caught sleeping as the Tide face everyone’s best in an attempt to launch the upset. It has happened twice in the past two years thanks to the Ole Miss Rebels who seem to have figured Saban and his team out. After that one loss the Tide reached a new level though and began running through most of their opponents. As a result they rose to the top of the rankings and remained there until the playoff. In the Cotton Bowl they were expected to get into a tough battle with the Spartans but instead they showed that they may in fact be the best team in the country despite their #2 rankings. The Spartans earned no points while the Tide racked up 38 thanks to a surprising effort by Jake Coker. Now they enter another championship game as the favourites and hoping to prove their history as the goliath of NCAA football.

The Tide are essentially the opposite of the Tigers but like the Tigers they have taken on the attitude of their head coach. Where the Tigers are a team that loves to have fun and play wide open the Tide are old school and love to play a grinding type of football. Like their head coach old school and unassuming but confident is the way to go about winning games. They have won multiple championships thanks to their power running and their consistently great defence. It’s not different this year as the defence is the strength and backbone of this team and it all starts up front. They don’t have one single player on the line that is the leader but instead they rotate multiple players throughout the game and none are the weak link as they have shut down great offences all season. Although no one player stands out A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, and Jonathan Allen have all been great. It is clearly the best defensive line group in the NCAA and for many it is the best single group in the NCAA. Everything starts from there as they have allowed an average of 74 yards per game on the ground. The passing defence is not as good as their rushing but they shut down Connor Cook and the Michigan State Spartans all game in the semi-finals. The defence is the pillar of the team as they have been able to shut down good offences and keep the ball in their own hands. When they do get the ball in their hands the Tide are a run first team that prefers to wear opponents down. They do that with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry who was the best pure running back in college football this year. The Tide will consistently hand it off to him to take on the biggest workload out of anyone in the game and so far he has shown the ability to handle the rushes. He is a big back that will run into the line until they eventually break and give him room to burn the defence on long runs. They have depended on Henry all year but in the semi-final they got a surprising performance from Jake Coker who was never the guy that everyone looked to but became that player against Michigan State. With his late emergence the Tigers have a lot more to worry about on defence than just trying to shut down the run. There is no doubt that the Tide are a team built to win but there is a blueprint to beat them and they will need to once again prove that they are the goliath of college football.

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