One phase within any game can completely alter its dynamic. Turnovers are often just such a phase, and Clemson just happens to enter the national championship with a season-long turnover margin on the negative side.
The Tigers’ 26 lost turnovers are in part a byproduct of their risk-taking offensive philosophy. Attacking Alabama with an aggressive pursuit is necessary, but also leaves Clemson vulnerable. We saw it in the Cotton Bowl when Michigan State threatened in the second quarter, and Cook was picked off by Cyrus Jones at the goal line.
Given Alabama’s methodical offensive approach, yielding one of the nation’s most dominant time-of-possession averages, a takeaway against this team is devastating, even if the Crimson Tide doesn’t immediately score as a result.
Likewise, eliminating explosive offensive plays with takeaways is a potential game-changer for Clemson. Coker’s breakthrough against Michigan State put Alabama in complete control near halftime, ending a stalemate that lasted much of the first half.
Clemson’s secondary must prevent Ridley from getting behind it for big-yardage pass plays. Coker has been prone to throwing interceptions at times, and should Kiffin again implement a game plan predicated on a potent passing attack, the Tigers will have opportunities.