The 2019-20 College Football season gets underway Saturday at 7pm ET on ESPN with the Miami Hurricanes taking on their cross-state rivals, the Florida Gators. The Gators are coming off a 41-15 drubbing of Michigan in the Peach Bowl to put the finishing touches on a 10-3 season that saw them wind up ranked #7 and head into this new season at #8. The ‘Canes are trying to get past the ignominy of a 35-3 pounding at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, dropping their record to 7-6.
It’s a dawn of a new day in Miami though, where hope springs eternal as the team welcomes rookie head coach Manny Diaz back to the fold. Diaz had enjoyed three very successful seasons as the ‘Canes defensive coordinator only to be lured away by the chance to lead his own team at Temple. But before he could hold so much as a practice, his former boss at Miami, Mark Richt, resigned, and the top spot at Miami was suddenly open. Diaz apologized profusely to Temple in announcing that he would be coaching his hometown Hurricanes. It was an awkward way for things to unfold, but you can hardly blame the guy.
Though Florida is currently the favorite heading into this game, the ‘Canes enjoy a 29-26 advantage in this rivalry, one that dates back to 1938, including a 2-0 edge in bowl games. But let’s be honest, while Florida vs. Miami is a dream matchup in the Sunshine State, what the rest of the country is quietly awaiting is Clemson-Alabama V: The Rubber Match.
It comes as no surprise that we head into the 2019-20 college football season with the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide ranked 1-2 in the polls. Of course they are. Three of the last four college football seasons have ended with the two schools playing for the national title. So which team has been better over this quadrennial of dominance? Let’s take a look.
Titles: push – tied 2-2
Second-place finishes: advantage ‘Bama, who’s made it to all four finals, while Clemson has been to “just” three.
Head-to-head: push — the teams are 2-2 against each other advantage Clemson, who’ve won two of the three matchups, all in the title game. While the first two games were one-possession affairs, Clemson stomped on ‘Bama this past January 44-16.
Overall record: push — both teams have gone 55-4 over the past four seasons.
Quality of opponents in losses: ‘Bama and it’s not close. In addition to falling twice to Clemson, they lost to #15 Ole Miss in 2015 and to #6 Auburn in 2017. Other than their losses to ‘Bama, Clemson lost to unranked Pitt in 2016 and unranked Syracuse in 2017.
Overall score: advantage Alabama — the Tide has outscored opponents 2311 – 86, for a differential of 1451, while Clemson has bested their foes 2295 – 982, a spread of just 1313. To give those numbers a little more context, the average ‘Bama game is a 39 – 15, for Clemson it’s 39 – 17.
Players taken in the NFL draft: advantage – Alabama, who’ve had 39 players, including 12 first-rounders, taken in the previous four drafts, compared to 24 Tigers, only six of whom were in the first round.
Impact players: advantage Clemson. There are plenty of talented guys in the NFL from each school, but none has made their mark like former Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, who made it to the Pro Bowl in his first full season after passing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns. Yeah, he got sacked 62 times, the fifth-most in NFL history, but the dude is electric and that number will come down as he learns the position and stops taking dopey chances.
Conclusion: advantage Tide. They never sleep on lesser opponents, they send way more guys to the pros and they outscored their opponents by two more points a game. Yes, Clemson fans will scream “COUNT DA RINGZZZZ” or “You’re only as good as your last game,” but ‘Bama has simply been better over the last four years. Not by much, mind you, but enough. Of course that all could change by January.
Watch the Miami Hurricanes vs the Florida Gators Saturday, August 24, at 7pm ET on ESPN.