After weeks of discussions about expanding the College Football Playoff, here are two conclusions: Nothing happens until ESPN says it happens, and once again the two best teams in college football meet for the championship Monday night.
This championship game is being billed as Clemson-Alabama IV, because for the past four years the teams have met in the playoffs. The Crimson Tide hold a 2-1 advantage, although both have won a national championship against the other. Last year, Bama eliminated the Tigers in the semifinals before beating Georgia behind the heroics of Tua Tagovailoa.
Despite the fact the two have become regularly scheduled programming and Bama is favored by 5½ points, this game could be very entertaining.
While Alabama and the SEC are the talk of the college football world with Nick Saban having won six national championships -- including one at LSU, the school he was never, ever going to leave -- Dabo Swinney has made Clemson just as viable, and he's done it in a state known for retirement, resorts and golf courses.
The Crimson Tide opened the season ranked No. 1 and Clemson was No. 2, the same place they finished.
The Tigers had a couple of scares early in the season, beating a Syracuse team 27-23 that turned out to be better than most expected. The second close game Clemson had was with common opponent Texas A&M, who the Tigers edged 28-26 in College Station.
The Tide got the Aggies at home and won 45-23. No one really challenged the Crimson Tide this season, not even Oklahoma in the first round of the playoffs. Georgia gave them some concern in the SEC Championship Game, but Tagovailoa was injured most of the second half and the Tide still won 35-28.
Alabama was so good, Tagovailoa was held out of the fourth quarter in nine games, which is virtually unheard of these days. Style points are far too often at play.
Both Clemson and Alabama seemed to get better each week. They earned not only their way into the CFP but also into Monday's title game.
Swinney and Saban are too smart to overhaul their offense or defense, but brilliant enough to add something new to their offense. Both will find a mismatch somewhere.
There are a few other things to expect.
The game will be long. College football has become the longest 60 minutes in sports, thanks in large part to ESPN and play reviews. Honestly, does anyone think ESPN wants people to actually attend the games? If fans are watching from home, ESPN's ratings go up and it can charge more for advertising. Last year's game was 10 minutes shy of four hours.
The reviews have become ridiculous to the point some conference needs to stand up and say that any official overturned because of a replay will be fined a few hundred dollars.
Expect Saban to not smile until after he wins, and then just briefly because his mind will shift to recruiting the next great class to Alabama.
Expect Swinney to be a bit more relaxed, and he will dance in the locker room if the Tigers win.
Expect the TV announcers to claim that almost every player on both teams is going to be an NFL first-round pick. On the other hand, don't expect them to say much about the lowest ticket prices for a title game since the playoffs began, and if they do they will claim it's because the game is on the West Coast and not centrally located.
Mostly, expect a good, maybe great, game between the two best programs in the country. That is why this is Clemson-Alabama IV.
Sports on 01/06/2019
Print Headline: WALLY HALL: Bluster aside, Clemson-Bama IV about best