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2018 Sugar Bowl Q&A with Shakin’ the Southland

Before Alabama-Clemson III, we talked to Shakin’ the Southland’s Brian Lewis.

CFP National Championship Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Feels like we’ve done this before… Anyways. Who’s the X-Factor for Clemson?

As cliche as it is to say it, Kelly Bryant is the X-Factor. If the Kelly Bryant from the last two games shows up Clemson is going to have an excellent chance to win. Bryant did well to read the defense, go through his progressions, and make the right throws, especially on deep balls. Couple that with his talent as a runner and he’ll give Alabama fits all evening. But if he struggles with the deep ball and Alabama can cheat the safeties down to stop the running game then Clemson is going to have to hope for a low scoring affair that they slug a victory out of.

But if you want another guy to keep an eye on, Dorian O’Daniel is the man. The Clemson LB will be key to preventing another crazy incident of the “RANDOM TE TOUCHDOWN OUT OF NOWHERE,” that plagued Clemson the last two years agains Alabama.

Clemson has an outstanding defense, led mostly by their front seven. What should Alabama fans be most worried about when the Tide go up against them?

The big worry is that Clemson has shown an ability to get pressure on the QB without blitzing. In previous years Brent Venables would blitz frequently. It would create pressure, but also give offenses some windows to complete passes. This year Clemson is getting pressure with just 4 and maybe 5 guys rushing the QB. If Clemson can do that and contain Hurts it is going to be extremely difficult for Alabama to get anything going.

Is there any weakness in the Clemson defense that Alabama could exploit?

A lot of quick passes outside is where it will be for Alabama. Look to the Syracuse and NC State games for examples. All caveats about both games aside, both offenses operated a quick passing system to get Clemson off balance and then added some run calls for success. If Alabama is willing to do this then I think you’ll see them get some points against Clemson.

Offensively, what works best and what could doom the Tide?

Clemson excels at consistency. They move the chains, march down the field, and score. Some of this is because of the deep ball issues. Clemson usually onyl scores on explosive runs plays and not explosive pass plays. Consistency is nice, but against more talented teams being able to score in explosive ways is important. Alabama is likely going to force Kelly Bryant to beat them deep while throwing and try to stop the run. A lot of teams have tried it and really only Auburn had a lot of success with it. So we’ll see what happens.

Do Etienne and Feaster have a shot at busting through ‘Bama’s run D?

Maybe, but I it’ll depend on Bryant’s ability to stretch the defense with deep balls. If Bryant can do that Etienne is shifty enough to get a few decent runs. I don’t think we’ll see any 60+ yard touchdowns, but I could see a few larger 20 yard runs because he can make 1-2 guys mix and get some separation. But Alabama has too much team speed for some of the bigger runs.

How do you see the game shaking out?

The last two years I thought this game would be a slugfest and I was wrong. But I’m sticking with that this year because more than ever I feel that both offenses are sort of carried by the defenses. And more importantly the offenses don’t quite have the talent of previous years. I’m not sure how confident I am about this game, but it should be close and low scoring.