Last year’s college football championship game was so epic that it only makes sense to re-run Clemson vs. Alabama. Last season’s affair finished in a 45-40 classic that featured over 1,000 total yards combined from both teams. Both schools dominated their competition in the opening round of the College Football Playoffs and they’ll enter a matchup on Jan. 9 that could top last year’s clash. Alabama has been top shelf material for what seems like forever but Clemson drove them to near-defeat when they met. Who wins the rematch? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this interesting question.

Clemson's Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates a touchdown during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates a touchdown during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Riley: Alabama wins. Their defense is littered with pro-caliber athletes and their running game wears on you. The two staples of every strong championship team they have–ziplock defense and power football. Nick Saban and his staff are top notch, and there’s a standard that Alabama has right now that other schools don’t. Clemson is talented and would make a great story if they won but you can’t bet against the Tide right now.

Green: Deshaun Watson has come into his own this season as the top quarterback in college football. He’s mobile with a big, accurate arm and has the cerebral part of the game figured out. There’s no defense he can’t perform against. He’s seen enough action in his career to adjust to any scheme and he’s a gamer. He’s the reason Clemson will win in exciting fashion. Alabama’s defense is pro-ready but so is Watson; and when he’s on his game, he’s dynamic. A future NFL quarterback in the making, Watson will get a chance to showcase for a potential top spot in the NFL Draft and he won’t disappoint. Here’s a secret: Clemson’s defense is just as good as Alabama’s. The difference in the game will be Watson.

Riley: Alabama’s defense is unreal. Clemson’s is great, but Alabama is on a different level on that side of the ball. The stop unit does more than just stop opponents, they score as well, totaling 11 return touchdowns so far this season. Their defense is a real weapon for them and Watson will be challenged. A dual-threat quarterback is the type of athlete you need to sound Alabama’s defense but they’ve seen enough of those type of quarterbacks and prevailed every time.

Green: Watson doesn’t have to go crazy but he’ll make some plays. The real story will lay in Clemson’s defense and how effective they are. Clemson just shut out Ohio State; their defense is dominant. Alabama isn’t the offensive juggernaut of previous seasons and Clemson could make some plays against their unit. The longer Clemson hangs around the more chances Watson will get to make some plays. Sooner or later he’ll find a breakthrough through this “impenetrable” defense that you speak of, Riley. This game has Watson’s name written all over it as a deciding factor and he’ll lead Clemson in the rematch.

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk