Is it time to call Alabama-Clemson a rivalry?

Is it time to call Alabama-Clemson a rivalry?
Is having played each other four straight years in college football’s postseason good enough to consider Alabama-Clemson a rivalry? (Source: College Football Playoff Website)

SANTA CLARA, CA (WSFA) - What else is there to say about these two teams? By now, Alabama and Clemson pretty much know each other like the backs of their hands - or so it seems.

“I think this has sort of become like someone you play in your league, because we have played several years in a row now." said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "I’m sure they know a little more about us, we know a little bit more about them.”

Alabama and Clemson are facing off for the fourth straight year in the College Football Playoff. This is the third meeting in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Alabama and Clemson have split the two previous title games and Alabama dominated in the College Football Playoff Semifinal last year.

“Maybe we can find a way to win this one and maybe we can have a little bit of a rubber match against them," said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

As far as the players, Saban said it’s still a new opponent.

“I think that players still look at each game as a new challenge,” said Saban.

Because these teams are so familiar, Saban said this is going to require extra attention to detail.

“I think the players are going to have to focus on what’s in front of them in terms of trying to get the kind of execution that’ll help them be successful in the game,” said Saban.

But is having played each other four straight years in college football’s postseason good enough to consider Alabama-Clemson a rivalry? Going by Saban’s answer, why not?

“I think because ‘rivalries’ sort of get promoted by really good teams, really good programs playing each other because those games have a tremendous amount of significance,” said Saban. “I don’t think this one is going to be any different.”

This year’s match-up will be especially different from last year’s for the Crimson Tide. They’ll face freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his talented arm.

The Crimson Tide had to deal with a similar passing threat in Deshaun Watson. As a sophomore, Watson threw for over 4,100 yards and 35 touchdowns. In the 2016 national championship game against the Crimson Tide, he threw for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns in Clemson’s loss. In 2017, Clemson’s revenge win, Watson threw for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Lawrence possesses that same ability. In 14 games, he’s thrown for over 2,900 yards and 27 touchdowns. What’s most impressive is that he only has four interceptions to his name in his first season.

As someone whose team has played Alabama so often, Swinney said Alabama’s offensive explosiveness is the biggest difference in this year’s Crimson Tide team.

“The biggest difference for them this year is their explosiveness on offense,” said Swinney. “I mean, this is by far the best version of them we’ve seen offensively.”

Most of that is due in part to Alabama’s Heisman Runner-Up at quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa has the kind of weapons of offense that have helped him pass for over 3,6000 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Swinney said he sees similarities in Clemson’s and Alabama’s offenses.

“We have a great understanding of who they are, but you gotta stop it,” said Swinney. “As it has been for other people with us.”

Monday night Clemson can gain the edge in national championship game meetings and even the series over the last four seasons, or Alabama can gain the edge and keep the Tigers behind them. The College Football Playoff National Championship game kicks off at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time. It will be televised on ESPN.

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