For a half, Alabama largely reasserted itself as the best team in the nation, dominating Clemson along both lines of scrimmage. The running game led by Damien Harris was overpowering, and Jalen Hurts was efficient. On the first Alabama touchdown, Hurts played good ball, keeping his eyes upfield and finding Bo Scarbrough on a crucial third-and-long pickup. A few plays later, Hurts was flushed from the pocket inside the red zone and, rather than keeping it, again kept looking for a receiver, finding Calvin Ridley in the back of the endzone for the score. Hurts has been the beneficiary of pretty good playcalling by Brian Daboll too, and he has been put in a position to have more success than last year’s second-half fiasco.
Clemson’s front seven is as advertised, but Alabama’s offensive line has won more than enough battles to move the ball. Kelly Bryant made a few third-down conversions, one with his legs and two nice throws on third-and-long. Otherwise, the Alabama defense has been a rock: The Tide harassed Bryant early and often in the pocket, played aggressive man on a CU receiving corps absent a game-changer like Mike Williams. As we noted in the advanced stat breakdown, Alabama was likely to have success stoning the Clemson running game and putting the Tigers in third-and-long. On offense, ‘Bama have converted more than 50% of their tries, while limiting Clemson to just three conversions. And, as Clemson partisans feared, the Clemson special teams have been a liability, not able to flip the field or get quality returns.
Not many surprises here this first half, aside from a really ugly final three minutes filled with mistakes, including some bad penalties and a missed field goal. Alabama has come away with just 10 points in three red zone trips and must improve that second half efficiency. Alabama gets the ball after the break, so we’ll see if those mistakes have been wrinkled out.
But, for a half at least, a healthier rested Tide mainly look like who we thought they were in October.
Grab your butts. If the last two meeting are an indication, we could be in for a wild final thirty minutes.