Fun Facts: Frequent Allstate Sugar Bowl participant Alabama takes on rare visitor Clemson
The Allstate Sugar Bowl features an intriguing and important matchup this year. It will be the rubber match between Alabama and Clemson, determining who gets the opportunity to play for all the marbles a week later.
Meeting in the College Football Playoffs for the third straight year, both institutions have great football history. Both squads have great talent once again.
This will be Clemson’s first trip to Sugar Bowl in 60 years. The last appearance was a 7-0 loss to Billy Cannon and the National Champion LSU Tigers, who scored the only points of the contest at Tulane Stadium thanks to Cannon. A nine-yard pass from the Heisman winner to Mickey Mangham for a touchdown followed by Cannon’s point after kick was enough to down the other Tigers who play home games in their own version of Death Valley.
Clemson was coached by John Heisman from 1900-’03, finishing with a 19-3 mark over that time frame. The famous trophy awarded to college football’s top player each year is named after the coaching icon.
Ex-Tulane coach Tommy Bowden took over the Clemson program following his 12-0 season with the Green Wave in 1998. He guided the Tigers from ’99-2008. After a 1-6 start in ’08, he was replaced by Dabo Swinney who never looked back. Swinney earned his appointment to head coach with a 6-0 finish that year.
The only player from the Pelican state on the Clemson roster is a key figure. Freshman running back Travis Etienne from Jennings considered LSU, Clemson, Texas A&M and Tennessee before signing with Clemson in the ’17 class. The 5-foot-10, 200 pound spped demon burst onto the scene finishing this season leading the Tigers with 744 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, averaging a stout 7.2 yards per carry. He paced the nation by scoring a touchdown every 7.9 carries. Etienne was the very last signee by Dabo Swinney in the ’17 class after rushing for 2,459 yards ( 11.7 yards per carry) and 39 total touchdowns at Jennings High.
Other notable players on the roster of the defending national champions:
-Redshirt freshman safety Nolan Turner is son of former Alabama and NFL fullback Kevin Turner who died from ALS in 2016. Kevin and Dabo were teammates at Alabama.
-Quarterback Kelly Bryant is the cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant.
-Mark Fields, a cornerback, is the son of former Saints 1995 first round draft choice Mark Fields.
-Defensive end Logan Rudolph is the younger brother of Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.
-WR Kanyon Tuttle is the son of former Clemson and NFL receiver Perry Tuttle, who was a member of the 1981 National Championship-winning Clemson Tigers.
-The biggest member of the squad is All-ACC defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (6-4, 340)
Unlike the Tigers, the Alabama Crimson Tide know the Sugar Bowl scene very well. The program is making a 16th visit to the bowl game overall (8-7 record) .The Tide have dropped their past three games played in the Sugar Bowl.
Leading rusher Damien Harris has 906 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season but his 8.2 yards per carry is eye-catching. In fact, he has averaged seven yards per carry for his three seasons at Alabama, ranking second in that category all-time in the program behind Wilbur Jackson’s 7.2 yards per carry.
Jalen Hurts (6-2, 218) is the school’s all-time leader among quarterbacks with 21 rushing touchdowns and he is only a sophomore. In the 27 contests he has played, Hurts has tossed for 38 touchdown passes and ranks eighth all-time at Bama with 4,720 yards.
Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar from Opelousas, La. played defensive tackle at LSU from 1986-’89 (second team All-SEC in ’89). He later played in NFL with the Saints and Cardinals. Running backs coach Burton Burns is a St. Augustine alum.
The Tide roster is sprinkled with lots of local flavor.
-DE Isaiah Buggs (#49) hails from Ruston
-DB Shyheim Carter (#5) from Kentwood
-DB Hootie Jones from Neville (will miss game due to injury)
-LB Dylan Moses (#18) from University High before transfer to IMG (will miss game due to injury)
-WR Cam Sims (#17) out of Ouachita Parish.
-TE Irv Smith, Jr. (#82) from Brother Martin (his father was first round draft pick of Saints in 1993)
-WR Devonta Smith (#6) from Amite
-LB Christopher Allen (#4) from Southern Lab.
-PK Joseph Bullovas (#97) Mandeville
-DT Phidarian Mathis (#93) from Neville
Not to be outdone in the big man category, Alabama freshman Deonte Brown (6-4, 350) is a mountain at offensive tackle.
How good are these two defenses? In a 14-6 win over eventual SEC West champion Auburn, Clemson recorded 11 sacks. They lead the college football world with 44 sacks. The front four of Clelin Farrell (8.5 sacks), Dexter Lawrence (2.5), Christian Wilkins (4.5) and Austin Bryant ( 7.5) are a big reason for their success.
Alabama has 31 sacks and 15 interceptions. Clemson has 14 interceptions, returning three for scores.
Total defense-wise, Alabama is tops in the country, allowing a mere 11.5 points per game to opponents and giving up 258 yards per game.
Clemson is no slouch, ranking eighth in same category and allowing 12.8 points with 278 yards per outing.
Sporting a balanced attack that tallies 35.4 points per game, Clemson is averaging 204 yards on the ground and 244 more through the air.
Alabama produces 39.1 points each game, with a dominating 265 yards rushing plus 200 yards passing.
One may be wise to expect a slugfest in this encounter, unlike the previous two meetings in national title games when offenses often stood out.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…