2019 National Championship Game: The matchups to watch, the prospects to watch, plus a final prediction

The biggest game in college football comes to Levi’s Stadium, here’s what you need to know

Tommy Call
January 07, 2019 - 10:47 am
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After an epic NFL wildcard weekend, the football world turns its eyes to Santa Clara for one of the biggest games ever played in Levi’s Stadium.

No Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t making his return to the field. Instead,  a score of super talented prospects, who could be joining up with Jimmy G next season, will be on the field for the 2019 National Championship Game.

It’s a matchup dubbed by many as the best of the best, no question on who deserves to be on the big stage as the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide will face off  on the biggest stage for the third time in four years.

Premier young quarterbacks, big money head coaches and blue chippers all over the defense — the question shouldn’t be which one of these players will be playing professionally in the Bay Area next season, it’s how many?

Scouts and talent evaluators put the most weight on a players performance in a big time matchup, best versus best type games, and that is exactly what this is.

This is the film general managers will be watching leading up to the draft. We’ve seen NFL playmakers like Amari Cooper, Deshaun Watson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mike Williams and Kenyan Drake all break out in this specific matchup — who’s next?.

This game has so much starpower, performances in this specific game could swing a players draft stock, before things kickoff Monday night, here are some matchups and prospects to know:

Matchups to Watch:

OL Jonah Williams vs. Edge Clelin Ferrell

The premier NFL draft matchup starts and ends with Alabama’s Jonah Williams versus Clemson pass rusher Clelin Ferrell. Williams is no doubt this classes best offensive line prospect. He’s a three-year starter in the SEC with a mixture of footwork, hands and strength to be a plug and play starter day one. He will now try and cap his historic career at Alabama against one of the ACC’s best pass rusher, Ferrell.

Ferrell is a guy that gets a lot of love for his physical traits — specifically his length, but he hasn’t been tested by guys like Williams this season. Ferrell also plays on college football’s best defensive line that has three players that could go in the first two rounds.

If Ferrell is as good as many think he can be then he’ll show well against Williams, but if he’s silent he could fall outside the top 20. For me, personally, Ferrell has been a bit underwhelming, so again this matchup against another premier prospect will loom heavy in his evaluation at the next level.

Ferrell looks like everything you want in an edge, so he is enticing to both Bay Area fanbases, but his physical traits can’t be his best asset— he needs to produce in this specific game to earn a high rank in an absolutely loaded edge rushing draft class.

RB Josh Jacobs vs. LB Kendall Joseph

Running back Josh Jacobs and Linebacker Kendall Joseph are examples of two risers in this draft class that will be matched up all night in Santa Clara.

Alabama’s Jacobs is challenging for the title of 2018’s best running back and a good performance versus Clemson’s defense could drive that home. Jacobs balled out against Oklahoma with a mixture of elusive and power runs — a reason many scouts love him. Jacobs has also been a safety net underneath for Tua Tagovailoa late in the season out of the backfield— something Clemson’s Kendall Joseph will be responsible for shutting down.

Joseph plays behind that dominant Clemson defensive front that allows him to be free in space and either cover guys or plug run gaps, something he’s done well this year. Joseph can make all the plays you want from a linebacker, but his ability to mentally diagnose plays is why many scouts will be watching him Monday night.

Alabama has a knack for dumping off short passes to their playmakers that turn into chunk plays because no one can hang with them athletically, except maybe a team like Clemson. Joseph will be in charge of getting the Clemson defense in the right position so those chunk plays don’t happen.

Prospects to watch:

Clemson CB Trayvon Mullen

The cornerback class is a murky one, which is bad news for the Bay Area as both teams could use help in the secondary.

Mullen is this year’s long, physical athlete who has a lot of traits coaches think they can mold into something special. Mullen hasn’t been tested much in 2018, because the Clemson defensive line is so good that opposing QBs barely have time to target him.

He should be tested early and often by Alabama’s high powered offense and that could decide his draft stock.

Alabama Edge’s Anfernee Jennings & Christian Miller

Anfernee Jenning’s is a guy from Alabama who surprisingly flew under the radar out on the edge because we’re just so use to Alabama edge rushers being great.

Well, that hasn’t changed in 2018 as the tide has two special pass rushers again in Jennings and Christian Miller. Jennings got a lot of attention by putting together a dominant game against Oklahoma with a sack, four tackles and a pass deflection. With Miller’s health status up in the air for Monday night, Nick Saban will rely heavily on Jennings to generate some pass rush for the tide.

Alabama Defensive Tackle Quinnen Williams

Alabama’s Quinnen Williams is the most dominant player in all of college football.

The end…

But seriously there is a reason some evaluators have Williams ranked over Bosa as the best prospect. He eats double teams for breakfast and will command the attention of three players at all times. Williams has it all and could overwhelm Clemson’s offensive line with ease.

(Bonus) A look ahead to 2020

This game is filled with skill players that will take over the 2020 draft class. QBs Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa have early first-round grades (Lawrence is drawing Peyton Manning comparisons as a freshman).

Clemson skill guys Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins will be drafted in the first round of 2020 while Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Najee Harris will all be touted when their draft eligibility comes around. Regardless, all these players will still be at the college level next season… yikes for the rest of the college football world.

Prediction for the Game:

Clemson 33 — Alabama 28

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