The college football final four came and went: Alabama agilely taught the Huskies to roll over and play dead to the tune of 24-7 while the Tigers toyed with Ohio State, shutting out the Buckeyes 31-0.
And so the rematch that no one was really hoping for but everyone knew would probably happen was born. Now the No. 1 team in the nation faces off against the No. 2 team on the biggest stage of all. So in honor of orderly numerals and against the proclivity of our fearless leader Ed, here is a look at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game by the numbers.
I give you: the final countdown. (Cue Europe.)
10. Reuben Foster
The number worn by Alabama senior linebacker Reuben Foster, who leads the Tide with 103 total tackles (54 solo, 49 assisted). Part of Bama’s punishing defense, Foster also recorded 12 tackles for a loss of 56 yards and four sacks for a loss of 33 yards. He also notched eight quarterback hurries. And pressure on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will be key for Alabama. Also, Foster isn’t one to shy away from “cheap shots.”
9. First Downs
The number of first downs Ohio State recorded against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s three rushing, four passing and two penalties if you want the breakdown. The Buckeyes ran 56 plays, if that also helps give some perspective. Clearly, Clemson won’t be doing that to Alabama, but limiting the Tide’s offensive efficiency will hopefully help even out the havoc Bama will wreak defensively.
8. Red Zone Touchdowns
The number of red zone touchdowns Alabama has allowed in 21 trips inside the 20-yard line by opponents. And it is hard to score points if you can’t get inside the red zone, am I right? There is a reason Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense, surrendering just 160 points (11.4 PPG) to opponents this season. That would be because they only allow opponents to reach the red zone an average of 1.5 times per game, the fewest in the nation.
7. Mike Williams
The number worn by Clemson redshirt junior wide receiver Mike Williams. He is the definition of “I’ll be back.” After sitting out last season, Williams has become Watson’s favorite target – Clemson’s QB has thrown to his treasured WR 127 times. That is 32 more targets than the next closest Tigers receiver. Williams has 90 receptions for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. In the game against Ohio State, Watson targeted Williams a team-high 10 times. Somebody call up DJ Khaled, because Mike Williams is a #MajorKeyAlert.
6. Turning Defense Into Offense
The number of games in which Alabama’s defense and special teams have outscored the Tide’s opponent this season. Alabama has scored an FBS-best 11 touchdowns on 27 forced turnovers so far this season – six of 16 interceptions and five of 11 fumbles.
5. Five-Year Reign
The number of years Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has won a bowl game over schools led by a coach who already has a national championship on his resume: Les Miles at LSU in 2012, Urban Meyer for Ohio State in 2013, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 2014 and 2015, Meyer again in 2016. Swinney is the only coach in college football history to accomplish that feat.
4. The Best Player In Clemson History
The number worn by Clemson junior quarterback Deshaun Watson. The de-facto leader of the Tigers, Watson’s 4,173 yards of offense accounts for 91 percent of the team’s total yardage. He also ranks second on the team in rushing with 145 carries for 672 yards and eight touchdowns to add to his 38 passing TDs. Consecutive top-three Heisman Trophy finishes aside, Watson and his boys of 2013 (the best recruiting class Clemson has ever had) are looking to make one last mark on the college football world.
3. Can They Do It When It Counts?
The number of times Clemson has beaten Bama. This is the 17th time the two teams will meet with the Tide owning a 13-13 advantage. The Tigers won the initial matchup in 1900, 35-0, and proceeded to shut out the Tide in the next two contests as well. Alabama has won the last 13 meetings, including seven by shutout.
2. Fresh And True
The number worn by Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts – the first true freshman to start at quarterback in head coach Nick Saban’s career. He has thrown for 2,592 yards with 22 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. It is also safe to say he is the greatest true freshman QB of all time. A few of his statistical rivals, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, were impressive but their teams were out of championship discussion by early October. Not since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985 has the late-season stage been so big for a first-year quarterback.
1. Sark’s Time To Shine
The number of newly hired offensive coordinators coaching in this game. And his name is Steve Sarkisian. Luckily, he has Hurts on his side, who told his roommate Calvin Ridley that “he likes Coach Sarkisian”.
“…He says he’s getting a lot of new things that can help him. He’s watching a lot more film, breaking things more down to him. I guess he likes the coaching better.” — Ridley told the media this week.
Sarkisian is tasked with helping Hurts overcome his slump and master Alabama’s offense all while being the first offensive coordinator ever hired one week before the National Championship game.
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.