GLENDALE, Az.–Nick Saban doesn’t want to be compared to Bear Bryant so we’ll relieve that burden by picking him to lose a game Bear would have won.
“Well, first of all,” Saban said this week, Bear Bryant has to be the greatest coach ever in college football.”
We here at Rankman agree–Pop Warner, go fly a kite!
Saban, as it concerns Bryant, said he should not “be considered anything like him.”
Like him or not, though, a win tonight over Clemson at University of Phoenix Stadium would vault Saban closer to Bryant’s stratosphere. It would give Saban his fifth national title–four at Alabama to go with his one at Louisiana State.
Bryant won six national titles, all at Alabama.
Saban doesn’t like the comparison, and all that it implies, so fine. Clemson will win 27-24. Now let us walk that back: picking against Alabama goes against every basic instinct Rankman has developed in decades of prognostication.
Picking against Alabama is like picking against a sun rise. For starters the Crimson Tide has defeated the Tigers 12 straight in the series. Alabama boasts the Heisman Trophy winner, Derrick Henry, and a defensive line that is deeper than the lines on Mick Jagger’s face.
It gets worse: Clemson’s defense has game-time question marks with nagging injuries to two key players, defensive lineman Shaq Lawson and corner back Mackensie Alexander, who was expected to blanket receiver Calvin Ridley.
Alabama has been there and done that more than any other program in history. Clemson has a history of perspiring in tense situations. The Tigers only have a chance tonight because it was smart enough to hire a former Alabama Dabo Swinney, who played on the Crimson Tide’s 1992 title team.
So why does Rankman think Clemson will win? It all rides on quarterback Deshaun Watson, the talented dual-threat superstar. Watson is the kind of player who has, traditionally, given Saban fits. Remember Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M and Auburn’s Cam Newton?
To defeat Alabama you have to break convention and go jailbreak. You have to make Tide uncomfortable by breaking down the traditional, button-downed way Alabama likes to play.
Watson will have to buy time with his scrambling ability and make school-yard plays. Manziel ran Alabama dizzy doing this, and so can Watson.
Watson should not, repeat NOT, try to run the football against Alabama. That will serve no purpose other than to get him injured. He is not as big as Ohio State’s Cardale Jones or Cam Newton. Watson ran 24 times for 145 yards in the semifinal win over Oklahoma. He should NOT try this against Alabama.
No quarterback has ever rushed for 100 yards against an Alabama team coached by Saban. Watson can run for more than 100 yards only if he promises not to cross the line of scrimmage.
He needs to be Russell Wilson, meaning he can’t be afraid to to slide like a coward. Clemson can only win if Watson plays 60 minutes. He needs to negotiate for time and go for “jugular” plays that demoralize Alabama’s defense.
Clemson’s defense needs to load up and stop Derrick Henry and then see if quarterback Jake Coker can play two great games in a row.
Michigan State held Henry to 75 yards but lost, 38-0, because Coker was sensational.
Rankman to Coker: “Let’s see you do THAT again.”
If it happens, we’ll tip our Houndstooth cap and praise the greatest program ever created by God, Bear and Saban, not necessarily in that order.