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Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | January 7, 2019

Alabama-Clemson: National Championship Game prediction, preview for College Football Playoff

Alabama and Clemson to resume college football's biggest playoff rivalry

Alabama-Clemson: Part IV. The two powers meet in the National Championship game. Find a prediction and preview below.

The College Football Playoff is in is fifth year. This is the fourth time coach Nick Saban and the Tide and coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers have played in the CFP. This will be the third time it's for the title, this time dueling at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Alabama-Clemson: National Championship prediction, preview

Through all the twists and turns during the months-long college football regular season, this matchup always seemed like a potential option.

Alabama vs. Clemson...or Clemson vs. Alabama.

MORE: National Championship Game date, time, TV channel

The two 14-0 teams have barely been tested this season. Those close games (Clemson vs. Syracuse, 'Bama vs. Georgia) stand out because they were so shocking.

MORE: Complete Alabama-Clemson history

With QB Tua Tagovailoa and his 3,671 yards and 41 touchdowns, Alabama has the best offense its had during this incredible run of five national titles going back to the 2009 season. Since 2015, Alabama is 55-3 with loses to Ole Miss, Auburn and Clemson. That's it.

Not that Clemson is that far behind. The Tigers are 54-4 since 2015, losing to Alabama twice, Pitt and Syracuse.

The Tigers have a dynamic quarterback of their own with Trevor Lawrence. The freshman took over the starting job from Kelly Bryant and has passed for almost 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns.

Despite all the deserved attention Lawrence has received, running back Travis Etienne has been a huge star. Clemson averages more than 250 rush yards per game, with Etienne rushing for 1,572 yards this season. Of Clemson's 537 carries this season, Etienne has accounted for 190 (35 percent). That's a huge change from last season, as Bryant led the Tigers with 173 attempts in 2017.

MORE: These stats tell us who will win the CFP title

When the Tide roughed up Bryant and the Tigers in a 24-6 Sugar Bowl win last season, it was clear Clemson didn't have the firepower to compete. It does now.

At the same time, Alabama is even better offensively — and it has Hurts waiting if needed.

The last two title game showdowns between these two have been decided by 5 and 4 points. It wouldn't be surprising if this year's game was even closer.

Alabama-Clemson: Stats, how they compare

Alabama STAT/LEADER Clemson
14-0 (8-0 SEC West) Record (Conference) 14-0 (8-0 ACC Atlantic)
No. 1 CFP ranking No. 2
47.7 Points per game 44.3
16.2 Points allowed 12.9
527.6 Yards per game 530.4
325.6 Passing ypg 274.1
202.0 Rushing ypg 256.3
310.5 Yards allowed per game 274.6
190.2 Passing yards allowed 182.1
120.3 Rushing yards allowed 92.6
Tua Tagovailoa
3,671 yards (41 TDs, 4 INTs)
Passing yards Trevor Lawrence
2,933 yards (27 TDs, 4 INTs)
Damien Harris
819 yards, 9 TDs
Rushing yards Travis Etienne
1,572 yards, 22 TDs
Jerry Jeudy
1,176 yards, 13 TDs
Receiving yards Tee Higgins
855 yards, 11 TDs
Quinnen Williams
66 total tackles, 17 tfl, 7 sacks
Defensive leader Clelin Ferrell
49 total tackles, 18 tfl, 11.5 sacks

MORE: How Alabama and Clemson match up statistically

Alabama-Clemson: Score prediction

The two biggest names in college football are battling again. Alabama is No. 1, the favorite, the defending national champion and has the (arguably) best quarterback in the country.

But something seems off.

After looking unbeatable for much of the season, Alabama barely beat Georgia thanks to Jalen Hurst heroics. The Tide raced out to a 28-0 lead against Oklahoma, only for the Sooners to get to within 11 points three times in the second half. Sure, Alabama always found an answer against OU. But Clemson isn't Oklahoma.

Huge, undefeated favorites have gone down before. Underdog Ohio State shocked Miami to win the 2002 national title. Texas beat Southern California in a classic Rose Bowl in the 2005 season. Both times, the winners were undefeated but still strong underdogs. Clemson fits that mold.

Clemson 31, Alabama 28

MORE: National Championship Game time, TV channel information