NEW ORLEANS, LA (WSFA) - In three days, two of the best teams in college football will collide for the third consecutive year, only this time it won't be for the national championship. Clemson and Alabama will meet under the lights of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans for the 2018 College Football Playoff.
It's a much anticipated Sugar Bowl match-up, a high-powered Clemson offense clashing against a tough Crimson Tide defense, with players showing respect on both sides.
"Oh yeah, no doubt you have to respect a team that has beaten you before," said Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.
"He's a good quarterback. He's a bigger guy, he runs the ball really well," said Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick on Clemson's quarterback Kelly Bryant. "He's almost like a wildcat every single snap but he can also throw the ball. He makes smart decisions with the football. He has really good athletes on the outside that he can get the ball to."
Bryant is replacing national champion DeShaun Watson at the quarterback position but it's safe to say he's no longer in Watson's shadow. This season Bryant has thrown for over 2,600 yards including 13 touchdowns to just six interceptions. As Fitzpatrick mentioned, Bryant can also run, and has show that by amassing over 600 yards on the ground and accounting for 11 rushing touchdowns.
Bryant returned the favor when speaking on the Tide's defense. The Crimson Tide have come to play all season long on the defensive side of the ball, only allowing more than 24 points just once. Alabama's defense also ranks second in the nation in only allowing 258 yards per game and is third against the run.
"They are a really physical bunch," said Bryant. "They make you earn everything. Every yard, and every first down and every point you get. They really don't get in a bad position. They are right where they need to be. You are just going to play four quarters. You can't get too high or too low."
Bryant faced the Auburn defense that held the Clemson Tigers to their season low 14 points in a 14-6 win back in week two and compared Alabama's defense to that of the Auburn Tigers.
"We got the chance to have a round three with Clemson. We are going to go out there and do our job," said Fitzpatrick.
It's effectively the rubber match in Alabama and Clemson's last three meetings with each previously coming out on top in the national championship. No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Alabama play each other Monday night, New Year's day at 7:45 p.m.