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CFP Championship 2016: 4 Important Matchups That Will Help Decide the Game


The Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide offer everything a college football fan could want out of a National Championship game: an unstoppable force against an immovable object.

The two sides are almost stark opposites. Clemson runs an up-tempo offense and lets its defense play with a lead, whereas Alabama loves to eat up the clock on offense and overwhelm the opposition's offensive line on defense.

But of course, neither would be where they are if they were not well-rounded teams. Here are four matchups to watch for Monday night in the second College Football Playoff National Championship.

1.     Clemson's D-line vs. Derrick Henry

Often noted for its offensive firepower, Clemson had one of the stingiest defenses in the nation and only six teams allowed fewer yards per game. But not only is Henry a physical freak and hard to take down, but he is a workhorse of a running back capable of taking 40 or more carries in a game.

Clemson's biggest difference maker in the trenches will be defensive end Shaq Lawson, who will play Monday night. If healthy and effective, Lawson will demand the attention of Alabama's offensive line and help the Tigers get into Alabama's backfield.

2.     DeShaun Watson vs. Alabama's defense

Watson was the lone quarterback who finished as a finalist for the Heisman, and with good reason. While the Tide have done better against spread, up-tempo offenses than they have in the past, the Tigers are a different animal. As ESPN pointed out, college football scouts believe Watson's mobility could give the Alabama defense fits.

But Watson threatens Alabama in another major way. He has thrown 22 touchdowns and three interceptions with 10 yards per attempt when facing a blitz, ESPN reported. Alabama relies on pressuring opposing passers, but Watson thrives under pressure.

3.     Calvin Ridley vs. Mackensie Alexander

Henry embodies the Tide's offensive identity, but wide receiver Calvin Ridley gives them a different dimension. If an opposing defense stacks the box to try to stuff Henry, Ridley has shown the ability to one-on-one coverage on deep routes.

Alexander will be the Clemson defensive back tasked with covering Ridley, and he will have to lock down the explosive wide receiver if the Tigers hope to win the war in the trenches. 

4.     Jake Coker vs. Clemson's defense

The Tide only averaged four fewer points per game than Clemson this season and that can be credited to quarterback Jake Coker's command of the offense. Coker excelled this season as a game manager, moving the ball slowly up the field and taking time off the clock.

But whenever Ridley was in a favorable matchup downfield, Coker proved to have the arm strength to get him the ball. Clemson had the fifth best pass defense in the nation this season and should prove to be Coker's toughest test thus far.

(Statistics courtesy of ESPN)

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