Clemson QB Watson holds key to beating Alabama’s D

clemfoot-4Alabama’s defense can stop quarterbacks that run. The Crimson Tide can stop quarterbacks that throw. But stopping a dual-threat QB that can do both – like Clemson phenom Deshaun Watson – is a different story.

That’s widely regarded as the key to Monday night’s national championship showdown between the Tigers and the Tide. If Watson can keep Alabama’s vaunted defense off-balance with a mix of the air and the ground, Clemson has a good shot to claim its first national title since 1981 at the College Football National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ.

The Tigers’ All-American is just the third quarterback in FBS history to pass for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. He passed for 31 touchdowns and ran for 12. Watson has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the past six games, including 145 on 24 carries in a semifinal win over Oklahoma.

“I don’t know that anybody stops Deshaun Watson,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.”You’re talking about a phenomenal player, a player who can beat you in a lot of different ways in terms of his passing ability, his ability to execute their offense effectively, can make plays with his legs, can extend plays in the passing game.”

Watson has studied game film on how it is done: Auburn’s Cam Newton beating the Tide in 2010, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel in 2012, even Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly doing so in September, when he passed for 341 yards. It seems there is only one way to defeat the Tide: Spread out its defense, use no-huddle tempo, and have a quarterback who can make something out of nothing.

“That’s part of my strength,” Watson said. “I’m going to use it to the best of my ability. If I have time or I have a chance to run, then I run. But if not, then I make the throws in the pocket. I’m just going to do my job, whatever situation comes. … I just have to do my job, my part, continue to be me and don’t try to be no superhero.”

While Clemson’s offense is aiming to turn the game into a track meet and to tilt the numbers in its favor by having Alabama have to account for the quarterback run game, the Tide is better equipped than ever to handle the spread without sacrificing rushing yardage. Alabama’s defense is No. 1 in the country against the run by allowing only 70 yards per game.

“Everybody knows they’re good,” Watson said. “But we’re good on offense, too.”

Which one is best Monday night will likely decide the national champion.

Photo by Clemson Athletics

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