- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

College Football Playoff national championship game

Tampa, Florida

No. 3 Clemson (13-1, CFP No. 2) vs. No. 1 Alabama (14-0, CFP No. 1), 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Alabama by 6 ½.

Series Record: Alabama 13-3, including 45-40 in last season’s College Football Playoff championship game.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The national championship and a chance for Alabama’s dynasty to reach another new level of unprecedented achievement. The Tide would become the first major college team to win five championships in eight years during the poll era (since 1936). Clemson is trying to win its first national title since 1981 and check the only box left for a program that has become one of the elite in college football under coach Dabo Swinney.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama’s offensive line against Clemson’s defensive line. Much is made, deservedly so, of the Crimson Tide’s talented and tenacious front seven. All-America DL Jonathan Allen leads the way. Clemson’s defensive line is packed with future NFL players, too. Freshman Dexter Lawrence is a 340-pound immovable object in the middle. DT Carlos Watkins is a second-team All-American. DE Christian Wilkins has the versatility and athleticism to play inside and out. Redshirt freshman Clelin Ferrell was defensive player of the game against Ohio State last week. With a freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts, the Tide’s offensive line must contain Clemson’s pass rush (49 sacks on the season) and open holes for RBs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Clemson: QB Deshaun Watson. Kind of obvious, but the Tigers probably can’t win unless the Heisman Trophy runner-up plays well. The junior, likely playing his last college game, has thrown for 4,173 yards and 38 touchdowns and run for another eight TDs. He has also thrown 17 interceptions.

Alabama: WR Calvin Ridley. The sophomore receiver has had a relatively quiet season compared his breakout freshman year (67 catches for 733 yards and seven touchdowns). He is capable of great things, and remember in last season’s title game it was Alabama tight end O.J. Howard who broke free for a career-best 208 yards receiving and two touchdowns against Clemson.

FACTS & FIGURES

Alabama could become the third team to go start-to-finish in a season as No. 1 in the AP poll, joining Florida State (1999) and Southern California (2004) … Clemson will be looking for its first victory ever against a No. 1 ranked team. …. Alabama has won 16 straight games against ranked teams, matching a record set by Southern California during Pete Carroll’s time as coach in the 2000s. … Clemson has 69 victories over the past six seasons. Only Alabama has more with 76. … Clemson WR Mike Williams, who missed almost all of last season - including the national championship game - with a neck injury, has 90 catches for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns. … Hurts could become the first freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national championship since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway did it in 1985.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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