Alabama, Clemson similar in many ways
Defending national champion Alabama and Clemson are similar in many ways, statistically speaking, as they head into next Monday's rematch for the College Football Playoff Championship in Tampa.
The Crimson Tide defeated Clemson 45-40 last year in Glendale, Ariz., for the national title.
SEC champion Alabama brings a 14-0 record into the title tilt, with Clemson coming in at 13-1. The Tigers won the ACC championship.
Clemson has the edge on offense; ranking 12th nationally in total offense at better than 503 yards per game. Alabama is 31st, averaging almost 461 yards per game. In scoring offense, however, the two are almost dead even, with Alabama 14th at 39.4 points per game and Clemson 13th with a 39.5-point average.
Alabama has the advantage in rushing offense, ranking 11th at 246.7 yards per game to Clemson's 62nd at 175.36 yards per game. The Tigers are better through the air, ranking seventh at 327.8 passing yards per game to Alabama's 81st with a 214.2-yard average.
Alabama's defense rates higher across the board. UA ranks No. 1 in scoring defense (11.4 points per game), rushing defense (62 yards per game) and total defense (244 yards per game), and 14th in pass defense (182 yards per game). Clemson ranks eighth in total defense (306.9 yards per game), seventh in scoring defense (17.1 points per game), 16th in pass defense (183.8 yards per game) and 19th in rushing defense (123.1 yards per game).
Alabama has an edge in turnover margin. The Crimson Tide is plus-8 on the year, while Clemson is plus-1.
The most marked contrasts show on defense. Clemson has given up 34 points or more four times this season – 34 in a win over Florida State, 35 in a win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, 36 to Louisville in a victory and 43 to Pitt in a loss. The Tigers have two shutouts, versus South Carolina State and Syracuse. Alabama has two shutouts – against Kent State and LSU – and allowed 30 or more points just twice: in wins over Ole Miss (43) and Arkansas (30).
Television ratings for this year's College Football Playoff semifinal games were up, especially for Alabama in the afternoon matchup. The Crimson Tide drew a 10.9 overnight rating for their victory over Washington, drawing 19.344 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 for a 12 percent increase over the previous year's afternoon semifinal between Clemson and Oklahoma. The game drew a 42.1 share in the Birmingham market.
The Clemson-Ohio State semifinal was up about 5 percent over the previous year's evening game between Alabama and Michigan State with a 10.5 overnight rating.
Alabama punter JK Scott was a key contributor in the Peach Bowl semifinal victory over Washington. He punted eight times for a 45.9-yard average, pinning Washington inside its own 10-yard line three times. Washington's average starting position after a punt was inside its own 19-yard line.
"In games like this one, where there's a lot of punting, you've definitely got to be ready to go," Scott said in the UA locker room after the game. "You've got to be ready every game, but punting was definitely more of a factor in this game."
Scott said he had more "sky punts" – high punts that are designed to be downed or caught by someone on the punting unit, in this game.
"That was definitely interesting," he said. "We haven't had a lot of those this year, and we had so many in this game.
"One of them, my gunner, Levi Wallace, got down there and just caught it right there. That would be ideal because it takes out all the variables."
Scott has one of the biggest legs in college football, and would be eligible to enter the NFL Draft at the end of this, his junior season. He said that's not going to happen.
"You know what? God's got a plan for me beyond football in Tuscaloosa, and He's in control," Scott said. "He's doing amazing things in our team. He's got me where he's got me."
Snap the dang ball
UA head coach Nick Saban could be seen on the sideline screaming an expletive when Alabama failed to get off a snap against Washington and got a delay of game penalty, one of two drawn by UA in the contest.
"The whole game we kept shooting ourselves in the foot," center Bradley Bozeman said. "That can't happen. That's just negative yards that we caused."
Bozeman took responsibility for the one that had Saban so upset.
"I got the wrong play," he said. "The quarterback was on one play, I was on another play. It didn't really work out the way we wanted it to. It was kind of one of those flustered moments."
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722
College Football Playoff National Championship
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa
When: Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. CT
Records: Alabama 14-0, Clemson 13-1
Radio: 95.3 FM, 102.9 FM