TAMPA, Fla.– As his eyes opened inside the team’s hotel, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian found himself in a fortunate position. The former analyst would have looked great as an ESPN anchorman; however, working under Nick Saban is more appealing. Nothing much can compare to earning a national championship (2003) in Pasadena, Calif., but even for the USC Trojans—it’s not on the same magnitude as Alabama.
While the players love him and he appears focused to Saban, it is time for Sarkisian to cement his audition on the biggest stage: this year’s College Football Playoff national title game. Clemson enters Raymond James Stadium, carrying the nation’s eighth-ranked total defense (306.9 ypg) and fourth-ranked pass efficiency defense (100.61, 12 touchdowns allowed). Regardless of the numbers, the Tigers’ defensive secondary has been susceptible in the passing game on multiple occasions. In its lone defeat against Pittsburgh (43-42), quarterback Nathan Peterman tossed for 308 passing yards and five touchdowns on 22 of 37 completions.
Lamar Jackson, signal caller for the Louisville Cardinals and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, totaled 457 yards (295 passing) and three touchdowns at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C., despite a 42-36 loss.
Even Virginia Tech’s dual-threat man, Jerod Evans, had success versus the Tigers. He turned in 264 yards passing and three touchdowns in the ACC Championship Game. Anchored by Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson can be over aggressive at times on defense.