While it won’t be for the national championship – at least not officially – the rubber match between No. 1 Clemson (12-1) and No. 4 Alabama (11-1) could be another instant classic. The Tigers and Tide will square off in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 at 8:45 p.m. ET, with the winner to play No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) or No. 3 Georgia (12-1) for the national title.
“I think it’s another great heavyweight title fight,” two-time Super Bowl champion and former Clemson All-American Jim Stuckey said on The DA Show. “These two teams have been at the top of spectrum of the college football world now for the last three years, and I look for another great battle. I look for a close game. I know Alabama has been battling some injuries on their defensive side, but I think they expect to have most of the people healthy. Clemson, like Coach Swinney says, ‘We don’t replace. We just reload.’ That was evident this year, as everybody thought we’d have a drop-off with Deshaun leaving and so many other talented people. He’s brought them back. We’re ranked No. 1 right now and looking forward to another great battle.”
Indeed, most programs regress, at least a little, when they say good-bye to a two-time Heisman finalist. Not Clemson. The Tigers won yet another ACC title and are 40-3 over the last three seasons.
“I think that’s just a tribute to Dabo, his coaching staff and what they’ve done and the type of players he’s recruiting,” Stuckey said. “He keeps filling that pipeline of young, talented individuals, and they buy into his program, what he’s doing. It’s just incredible that he’s been able to have this sustainability going forward. He has some veteran leadership along with some young guys who have really made some positive impacts.”
That includes junior quarterback Kelly Bryant, who completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 2,678 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Bryant also ran for 646 yards and 11 scores.
He’s not Deshaun Watson, but he’s mighty effective.
“I think it’ll be close,” Stuckey said of Clemson/Alabama III. “I do not think it’ll be as high-scoring as in the past, but I still think it’ll be somewhere around 21-17, 24-21. Clemson on top, of course.”