In just the third season of the College Football Playoff system, Alabama and Clemson will both play in the National Championship Game for the second time. Both schools defeated their opponents handily in the Semifinals: Alabama beat Washington 24-7 in (Chic-a-fila) Peach Bowl and Clemson beat Ohio State 31-0 in (Playstation) Fiesta Bowl.
Alabama edged out a 45-40 victory against Clemson in last year’s game, setting up what should be an exciting rematch. These two powerhouse programs will face off for the title on Monday, January 9 at 8:00pm (ESPN) in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium.
There are numerous players on both teams that have ties to the Sunshine State.
Two starters on Alabama’s top rated defense are Florida natives, Defensive Backs – Eddie Jackson (Lauderdale Lakes) and Ronnie Harrison (Tallahassee) as well as Wide Receiver – Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek).
Clemson’s roster is loaded with Florida natives (14 players in total), including most of their Receiving core: Artavis Travis (Clearwater), Deon Cain (Tampa), Ray Ray McCloud (Tampa) and Tight End Jordan Leggett (Navarre).
You can also find ties to Orlando on the Clemson roster. Deshaun Watson’s backup QB, Freshman Tucker Israel is a graduate of Lake Nona High School and Tight End Garrett Williams is a graduate of The First Academy. The Bevelle twins (Kaleb and Kelby), both Defensive Ends, are graduates of Apopka High School, played their first season at Southeastern University (Lakeland).
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney and the Bevelle twins father, Willis Bevelle were both walk-ons at Alabama in 1989 and played on the Tide’s 1992 National Championship team. Clemson Offensive Tackle Jake Fruhmorgan (Tampa) is also putting his father, former Alabama offensive lineman John Fruhmorgan, through the similar stress of choosing to root his son’s team (Clemson) or his alma mater (Alabama).
Many will remember Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban’s two year stint as Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins (2005-2006). Saban finished 9-7 his first season, but dropped to 6-10 in 2006. In the days following the 2006 season, Saban made the announcement he was signing on with Alabama, in what turned out to be an historic event.
While it is true that both schools maintain bitter rivalries with Florida State (Clemson) and Florida (Alabama), you will find plenty of alumni and fans of both schools when traveling throughout Central Florida. Clemson recently defeated Virginia Tech at the ACC Championship Game in Orlando and Alabama plays Louisville in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando this September.
This will be the first College Football National Championship Game ever played in Tampa. Perhaps given the high profile games played in Orlando in recent years, a future bid for the big game may not out of the question.