Congratulations, Clemson

Texas flag. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Texas flag. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Nick Saban will lose.

Yes, I know, it’s actually Alabama (the team) and not Saban (the individual) who is facing Clemson Monday night for the national championship. But Saban has become so monolithic, so omnipresent, so…SABAN…that really, most people usually talk about how impossible it is to beat Saban, primarily. Oh, and also, Alabama.

Well, it’s not impossible this time.

I know, predicting a Crimson Tide loss is silly. Saban has won 26 straight, after all. This time, though…this time…

This time, Alabama won’t have a 95-yard kickoff return, as the Tide did last year while winning, 45-40. This time, Alabama won’t succeed with a surprise on-side kick. This time, Clemson won’t miss a key field goal. All of these things went Alabama’s way as Saban won his fifth national championship.

This time, Alabama is facing a Deshaun Watson who has one more year of experience, a Heisman Trophy finalist who enters the game with a chip on his shoulder the size of Howard’s Rock. This time, Alabama is facing a Clemson defense that is giving up just over 17 points per game, and the Tide is also bringing into a game a true quarterback who may have played his best football earlier in the year: Jalen Hurts.

Hurts passed for a grand total of 57 years in the semifinal game against Washington, a team who would’nt been one of the best teams in the SEC this season. Without question, Clemson enters the game with the far superior quarterback.

On the Clemson side of the ball, the Tigers have talent at running back and receiver, as well as an experienced offensive line to do battle against an Alabama defense many say is the best ever. The Tigers also have one of the best defensive lines in the country, a unit that is much better than the Washington ‘D’ against whom Hurts managed just 57 passing yards. Have I mentioned that Alabama only passed for 57 yards against Washington?

I’m telling you, this is going to happen.

But one of the biggest reasons Clemson will beat Alabama is that Saban may have finally ‘out-Saban-ed’ himself. The Alabama coach announced after the Tide’s mediocre offensive effort against Washington that he and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin ‘mutually’ decided that it would be best for Al Davis’ least-favorite coach to pack up and head down the road to his new gig as head man at Florida Atlantic.

And, umm, it was also mutually decided that Kiffin would leave immediately, a week before the national championship game. Enter Steve Sarkisian, who has been with the team for awhile but hasn’t called plays all year.

In other words, Saban doesn’t really think it matters who his offensive coordinator is; he can flip the switch as he sees fit, make decisions as he sees fit, and once again win the championship. Because he is, after all, Saban.

Just like always, right? Wrong.

This time, his opponent not only has talent that can match up better with Alabama than anyone in the country, but one that also has the better quarterback. Add to the fact that Alabama’s offense – average at best by Tide standards – must break in a new play-caller while trying to win a national championship, and the recipe is there for Saban to lose.

And, this time, he will.

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