Skip to main content

Eight matchups to watch in Clemson-Alabama game

The College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will feature a wide assortment of pro prospects, many of whom will be available in the 2016 NFL Draft. College Football 24/7 looks at some of the key individual battles that will have the greatest impact on the game's outcome.

When Alabama has the ball

Alabama LT Cam Robinson vs. Clemson DE Shaq Lawson

Probably the most heavily anticipated individual battle of the game, the tangle between Robinson and Lawson will go a long way to determine whether Crimson Tide QB Jake Coker has adequate time to throw. Lawson is recovering from a minor knee injury that sidelined him during the Tigers' semifinal win over Oklahoma. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has expressed optimism that Lawson will play, but whether he's able to play with his normal effectiveness is another question. Lawson intends to enter the 2016 NFL Draft as an underclassman, while Robinson -- a first-team All-SEC pick -- is a true sophomore and not draft-eligible until 2017 or 2018.

Alabama RB Derrick Henry vs. Clemson LB B.J. Goodson

The Crimson Tide's Heisman Trophy winner has rushed for 200-plus yards in four of his last eight games, though Michigan State's defense did a solid job of containing him in the semifinal in holding him to 75 yards on 20 carries. Though he's a power rusher at 245 pounds, Henry has the speed to break long runs, even if that might also require a broken tackle in the secondary. Goodson, the Tigers' middle linebacker, will get more than his share of opportunities to plug rushing lanes between the tackles on Henry's inside runs. With a team-high 98 stops and 14 tackles for loss, he's done so consistently for the Tigers.

Alabama WR Calvin Ridley vs. Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander

The Crimson Tide's spectacular newcomer has broken Amari Cooper's freshman record for receiving yards with 1,031, and like Cooper, he's been able to stretch the field vertically as the team's top deep threat. Alexander is Clemson's best corner in coverage and, although his next interception will be the first of his career, he has the quickness and physical skills to be problematic for receivers. However, Alexander will reportedly be a game-time decision with a hamstring injury. Alexander, a third-year sophomore, is leaning toward applying for 2016 draft eligibility.

Alabama RT Dominick Jackson vs. Clemson DE Kevin Dodd

Even if Robinson does a great job containing Lawson on the left side of the Alabama line, that doesn't mean Coker will have all day to throw. Dodd, who should line up opposite Jackson on the other side for most of the night, has nine sacks of his own. Jackson has struggled at times in pass coverage this year, though he's been more effective late in the season. Alabama can always help Jackson if needed with a back, but the Tigers are capable of pressuring the pocket from either side.

Check out the top 10 players from Clemson to play in the NFL.

When Clemson has the ball

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson vs. Alabama LB Reggie Ragland

The Tigers' Heisman Trophy finalist figures to test Ragland with throws in the short area with tight end Jordan Leggett. But where Watson can really hurt defenses is on the ground with designed runs, particularly on read-option keepers, and on improvised scrambles out of the pocket as well. Watson has 1,032 rushing yards on the year, second on the team, and that's helped the Tigers move the chains an average of 25.9 times per game as much as anything. Ragland, a senior who received a second-round draft grade as a junior in 2014, will have to tackle as effectively in space in this game as he does between the tackles.

Clemson OG Eric Mac Lain vs. Alabama DL Jarran Reed

Mac Lain, a first-team All-ACC pick, will engage with Reed and Alabama's other standout interior linemen in a battle that will help determine whether Clemson can get anything on the ground inside. That's something no opponent has been able to do all season with any sustained effectiveness against the Crimson Tide, so Clemson would be the first. As for pass plays, Reed isn't a sack specialist by any means, but the senior is strong enough to shrink the pocket from the inside if Mac Lain can't drop anchor.

Clemson RB Wayne Gallman vs. Alabama LB Reuben Foster

The Tigers' star rusher, who has 1,482 yards on the year, has great quickness in open space and a spin move as well. Though only 210 pounds, he's plenty tough, although he figures to make more of an impact against Alabama on the perimeter than up the middle. Foster, Alabama's weakside linebacker, will be watching for Gallman on cutbacks, screen passes and stretch plays. Both are eligible to enter the 2016 draft but are expected to return to school.

Clemson WR Artavis Scott vs. Alabama CB Cyrus Jones

Scott leads Clemson with 89 catches on the year, though he's not been especially explosive at 9.8 yards per catch. Jones, Alabama's top cornerback and a senior draft prospect, has seven pass breakups and two interceptions on the year. Bigger receivers have given the 5-10 Jones some problems at times this season, but Scott is only 5-11. If Clemson tests Jones with a couple of lobs, he'll likely be on a different receiver when it happens.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content