Jan. 7 (UPI) — The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide play the Clemson Tigers with the national championship on the line Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
It’s the fourth time the teams will play in the College Football Playoff, including the third meeting for the national championship.
Alabama (14-0) and No. 2 Clemson (14-0) enter with undefeated records and can become the first 15-0 FBS champion in the poll era.
Head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are searching for a sixth national title since 2009. The Tigers could grab their second championship in three seasons, giving them three (1981 and 2016) in program history, with a win on Monday.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to compete against the best team in the country on the highest stage,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told reporters. “Alabama has been an unbelievable champion, and coach Saban and the consistency they’ve had is remarkable. So, not surprised at all to see them sitting back here.”
Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — who has battled injuries for portions of the season — paced the team as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He’s thrown for 3,671 yards on 223-of-321 passing with 41 touchdowns and four interceptions this year.
Clemson is led by freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who took over for Kelly Bryant four games into the season. He has thrown for 2,933 yards, 27 touchdowns and four picks.
“I think Trevor Lawrence, in particular, has done a phenomenal job for his team this year in his ability to execute,” Saban said to reporters. “He certainly doesn’t play like a freshman or look like a freshman. If anybody ever watched him, they wouldn’t think he was a freshman.”
The Tigers are also led by a defensive line that consists of All-Americans Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell. Clemson will be without defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who was suspended by the NCAA after a failed drug test.
“They have so many disruptive plays,” Alabama running back Damien Harris said. “They cause so much havoc for the offense that they’re playing.”