Alabama is headed back to the national championship game. The Crimson Tide handled Michigan State 38-0 on Thursday and will now face Clemson on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona, with college football's greatest prize on the line.
Here are five reasons why Alabama can take down the Tigers and claim their 16th national title:
1. Derrick Henry is a monster
Michigan State did a fine job of keeping Derrick Henry somewhat in check (3.8 yards per carry), but don’t think for a second that he’s still not the player Clemson should most fear. Henry is a Heisman Trophy winner, after all. He rushed for an absurd 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns in the regular season. Simply put, he’s a beast. Clemson has a very good defense, but the chances of Henry having two non-dominating games in a row is unlikely to say the least. Expect Bama to rely on Henry heavily in the title game, and the stud running back just may lead the Tide to the promised land.
2. Dominant defense
Alabama’s defense isn’t just great, it’s nearly impenetrable. During the regular season, the Tide allowed just 258.2 yards per game (No. 2 in the country) and 14.4 points per game (No. 3). On Thursday, they completely bottled up Michigan State’s offense, keeping them off the scoreboard entirely and allowing just 239 yards. With a strong secondary and plenty of toughness on the line, the Crimson Tide’s defense is no joke. Clemson has an outstanding offense, but even they’ll struggle to put up points with the Tide’s defense as strong as it is.
3. Jake Coker is hitting his stride
Jake Coker might not be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but he’s been quite effective recently. He was at his best against Michigan State, throwing for 286 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-30 passing. He made a number of big plays but probably none bigger than his 50-yard pass to Calvin Ridley in the second quarter that led to the game’s first score.
Henry scored the TD, but this 50 yard pass to Calvin Ridley set it up. #CottonBowl https://t.co/pm3fNgWVMO— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2016
With Bama’s excellent defense and running game, Coker is playing at a high enough level for the Tide’s offense to roll.
4. Nick Saban has been here plenty of times
No need to worry about Alabama shrinking under the bright lights of the national title game. This is a program that expects to be here every year, led by a coach who helps it nearly accomplish that goal. This is Saban and the Crimson Tide’s fourth national championship appearance in the last seven years. And when Saban gets to this point, he wins. He’s 4-0 in national title games during his illustrious career. On the other side, this would be Clemson’s first championship in 34 years.
5. They’re surely wanting to make up for falling short last year
As we just talked about, Alabama has a championship expectation. So making it to last year’s College Football Playoff with many expecting them to win it all and then losing in the semifinal had to be incredibly disappointing. This is a program that’s surely ready to avenge last year’s (and the season prior’s) shortcoming and reclaim its place atop college football’s mountaintop. A hungry Crimson Tide team is bad news for the Tigers.
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