TAMPA, Fla. – The Latest on the College Football Playoff national title game (all times local):
The experience edge in the quarterback matchup for this College Football Playoff national championship game between Alabama and Clemson overwhelmingly favors the Tigers’ Deshaun Watson.
Alabama’s Jalen Hurts should not be deterred.
Of the last seven quarterbacks to lead their team to a national championship, six did so in their first season as a full-fledged starter. Greg McElroy did it for Alabama in 2009, Cam Newton for Auburn in 2010, A.J. McCarron for Alabama in 2011, Jameis Winston for Florida State in 2013, J.T. Barrett for Ohio State in 2014 and Jake Coker for Alabama last season.
The only year in that stretch where a first-timer didn’t win the title was 2012 _ when McCarron helped the Crimson Tide win back-to-back titles.
Then again, it bears noting that none of those other first-timers were exactly in Hurts’ position. He’s looking to become the first true freshman starting quarterback to win a national title since Jamelle Holieway for Oklahoma in 1985.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney played for a team that won an AP national championship in 1992, when he was a receiver for Alabama.
He’s now got another chance to coach a team that would win the AP crown.
Only Bud Wilkinson _ a player on the Minnesota team in 1936 and a coach of three title teams at Oklahoma in the 1950s _ has the distinction of both playing and coaching a team that finished a season as AP national champions.
Swinney, whose Tigers have a College Football Playoff national title rematch against Alabama on Monday night, could be the second.
There are other coaches who helped their schools win national championships as a player and then captured crowns as coaches _ Bear Bryant, Jimmy Johnson and Frank Leahy among them _ but either the AP poll had not started or their title was not recognized by the AP.
Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t always win championships.
It only seems that way.
Alabama is playing in Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship game against Clemson, and Saban is taking a nine-game title-at-stake winning streak into the contest.
Since 2009, he’s 5-0 in SEC title games and 4-0 in national championship games. His last loss in a “championship” game was in 2008, when Florida beat the Tide for the SEC crown.
Alabama could be the first college football team in the modern era to finish 15-0.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before.
When this College Football Playoff championship game kicks off later Monday night, these Alabama and Clemson squads will become only the seventh and eighth teams to play 15 games since the NCAA was formed in the 1930s. The others are BYU in 1996, Kansas State in 2003, Ohio State and Oregon in 2014, and Alabama and Clemson last season.
And of those, none finished 15-0.
Alabama has the chance in this title game; Clemson had the same chance last year in the championship game, before getting beaten by the Crimson Tide.
Yale won 15 games in 1889 and 16 games in 1894. Penn won 15 games in both 1892 and 1897. So even if Alabama isn’t going into truly uncharted territory, it’s aiming to reach some pretty rare air.