Which statistics could prove key to the outcome of Alabama and Clemson's national championship game?
Andy Staples: Alabama's defensive touchdowns
It’s Alabama’s 15 non-offensive touchdowns. As Washington tailback Myles Gaskin so astutely pointed out before the Peach Bowl, those touchdowns seem to infuse every phase of Alabama’s game with more energy.
Pete Thamel: Alabama's passing yardage
Alabama has the No. 81 passing offense in the country. (Interesting nugget, Ohio State’s is No. 82). Obviously, Steve Sarkisian’s first Alabama gameplan will be run heavy after the Tide neglected Bo Scarbrough in the semi-finals. But Alabama is going to need some semblance of a pass game from Jalen Hurts, as Clemson is going to load the box and dare the Tide to beat them over the top.
Lindsay Schnell: Kickoff and punt return yards
Do not underestimate the value of kickoff and punt returns. Either can turn a game, like it did for Alabama last year with Kenyan Drake's 95-yard kick return touchdown. It seems unlikely that in the rematch someone else would take a kickoff or punt all the way to the house, but just a long return that sets up a score could flip the game quickly.
Brian Hamilton: Red-zone touchdowns
Clemson's defense has surrendered 21 touchdowns on 36 opponent trips into the red zone. Alabama surrendered eight touchdowns on a remarkably minuscule 21 opponent trips into the red zone. If either offense can even make it that far, and if it can somehow cross the goal line instead of settling for field goals when it does, the odds of winning might skyrocket.
Joan Niesen: Turnover margin
Alabama's +8 turnover margin on the season stands out to me. Clemson is just +1 in the same category, and Watson threw 17 interceptions this year, which is no small number for a player who was in serious contention for the Heisman. If Alabama can force a few turnovers and hold onto the ball itself, that'll go a long way toward guaranteeing a win.