College Football Playoff championship game: 7 things to know before Alabama-Clemson kickoff for national title

The 2019 National Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers will be played Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The game between the two powerhouse programs is set to kick off at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN. Fans will also be able to experience different programming depending on which ESPN channel is selected.

Here are some things to know before the game gets underway.

NOT THEIR FIRST RODEO

FILE – In this Jan. 1, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talk before the Sugar Bowl semifinal playoff game for the NCAA college football national championship in New Orleans.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

It is Alabama and Clemson’s fourth meeting in the College Football Playoff and their third in the national title game since the new format was initiated in 2015. Alabama has beaten Clemson twice, including once in the national title game in 2016. Clemson defeated Alabama in the 2017 title game.

Alabama has won the national championship twice since the dawn of the playoff format. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions, defeating Georgia last year in a dramatic finish.

Clemson has appeared in the national championship twice – both against Alabama.

SORRY, NOT SORRY

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney answers questions at a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney answers questions at a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Alabama coach Nick Saban and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made no effort to apologize for fans who claim they are sick of seeing the Crimson Tide play the Tigers every year.

“I mean, I’m not going to apologize for having a great team and a great program and a bunch of committed guys, and Coach Saban is not, either,” Swinney told reporters Sunday, according to ESPN. “I think the objective is to get the two best teams. That’s kind of the way it is. If that’s not best for college football, then why did we even do it?”

Saban said the new format may prevent other schools from feeling positive about their bowl victories with the added focus on the playoff.

“Now there’s a lot of focus just on the playoffs and that becomes the target that every program and every team is sort of aiming for, and it’s certainly the target that we have and a goal that we have as a program, and we’re going to continue to have,” Saban said. “I can’t really speak for other teams or what the impact of college football really is, but it’s my job and my responsibility to do the best job that we can for our team, our players, our program in terms of what it takes for us to be successful, and I guess that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.”

LEVI’S STADIUM CONCERNS

Field conditions at the host stadium for the national championship are a big concern. College football writer Bryan Fischer tweeted a photo of how the stadium turf is being kept “under wraps.”

New turf was installed after the Redbox Bowl, which took place on Dec. 31, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Rain also slammed the Bay Area on Sunday, which makes the state of the field Monday night an even more precarious situation.

Conditions at Levi’s Stadium have been a concern in the past, the Chronicle noted. Former San Francisco 49ers coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Tomsula both had to pull their players off the field during practices in 2014 and 2015 because of how unsafe the turf was. The field could play a factor Monday.

HOW TO WATCH

A Clemson fan watches media day for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. 

A Clemson fan watches media day for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. 
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

ESPN’s Megacast during the college football national championship game has become a staple in its programming since the launch of the expanded playoff system. This year, the network will reportedly have 250 cameras in play during the game along with a pylon camera and a camera that will feature views of any kind of action on the field at any time during the game.

Additionally, fans will be able to experience the game in different ways across the network’s channels ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, SEC Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN3, ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio.

ESPN2 will broadcast “Field Pass,” featuring play-by-play announcers calling the game from the sidelines. “Monday Night Film Room” will be broadcast on ESPNNEWS and feature analysts breaking down the plays as the game goes on. The “Thinking Out Loud” team will provide color on the SEC Network, while ESPN3 will offer the blimp cam.

NFL FUTURE ON DISPLAY

Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams speaks during an NCAA college football news conference on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alabama plays Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl semifinal football game on Dec. 29.

Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams speaks during an NCAA college football news conference on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alabama plays Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl semifinal football game on Dec. 29.
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Monday’s national championship game is loaded with NFL prospects. Aside from quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence, who may not go pro until next season, each team has league-ready talent ready to jump off the page at scouts under the biggest of lights.

Defensive linemen Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis, offensive lineman Jonah Williams and safety Deionte Thompson are just a few of the players to watch on the Crimson Tide.

On the Clemson side, the Tigers have edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Kendall Joseph.

HISTORY WILL BE MADE

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pose with the trophy at a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pose with the trophy at a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

No matter who wins Monday night, either Alabama or Clemson will be making history.

Whichever team wins will pick up their 15th victory of the season, marking the first time a top-level program has ever won 15 games in a single season in the AP poll era. Previously, the 1897 Penn team went 15-0, while the 1984 Yale team went 16-0, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. There have been five 14-0 teams since 1895.

Crimson Tide offensive lineman Josiah Williams said going 15-0 would be “amazing.”

“It will probably enter my mind if we win. I think that 14-0 is cool and 15-0 is amazing, but 14-1 doesn’t really matter — no one is going to remember that,” he told reporters last week. “So, I think in seven or eight days after the game, if we do what it takes to win, I think we can sit back and be pretty proud of it. But right now we’re just focused on getting to that point.”

GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL DYNASTY SOLIDIFIED?

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates after overtime of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia, in Atlanta.

FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates after overtime of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia, in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

A win for Alabama on Monday could mean new heights for the dynasty coach Nick Saban has built at the school since he joined the program in 2007. He’s won five national championships since 2009 and won one with LSU in 2003. One more title would break a tie with Bear Bryant for most by any coach.

“I don’t ever even think about that at all,” Saban told reporters. “I do think a lot about trying to make and help this team to be the best possible — and to put them in the best possible position to have a chance to be successful.”

While other teams in a different era could claim the crown of the greatest college football dynasty, they haven’t stacked up to the increased national exposure young stars are prone to nor did they have to face the increased pressures of the NFL calling on them.

Saban has replenished Alabama time-and-again and created a powerhouse in the SEC. A win Monday should end the debate of greatest college football dynasty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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