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TALE OF THE TAPE

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A position-by-position breakdown of the national-championship contenders

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

CLEMSON

Alabama

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Sophomore Deshaun Watson is the sort of mobile, strong-armed passer who has given Alabama's defense trouble in recent years.

QB

Senior Jake Coker, who has completed 71.6% of his throws in his last 11 starts, proved in the Cotton Bowl that he can win a game with his arm.

No one can gain yards up the middle against Bama alone, but Watson's ability as a runner could open up space for sophomore Wayne Gallman.

RB

Heisman Trophy--winning junior Derrick Henry remains a load to tackle, and a now healthy Kenyan Drake is dangerous on the edge.

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Artavis Scott (89 catches) is the workhorse, Charone Peake is the big-play threat, and TE Jordan Leggett (6'5", 255) is the goal line nightmare.

REC

Freshman receiver Calvin Ridley has lived up to the Amari Cooper comparisons. Meanwhile, Coker finally got TE O.J. Howard involved.

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Right tackle Joe Gore and left guard Eric Mac Lain are steady seniors; freshman LT Mitch Hyatt will have to play near their level.

OL

Senior center Ryan Kelly is the leader and anchor. Sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson is the freak athlete. The entire unit can maul defenses.

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All eyes will be on junior DE Shaq Lawson's injured knee, but junior end Kevin Dodd and junior tackle Carlos Watkins are almost as disruptive.

DL

The best group in the country. Eight players rotate through three spots, including tackle A'Shawn Robinson, and there are no weak links.

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Senior B.J. Goodson (98 tackles, 14 for loss) is a big-play machine, and junior Ben Boulware (79 tackles) excels at stuffing run gaps.

LB

Like the D-linemen, the linebackers, led by Reggie Ragland, are future pros who frequently split reps with little drop-off in skill.

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Sophomore CB Mackensie Alexander can lock down receivers; junior safety Jayron Kearse (6'5", 220) covers and is strong against the run.

DB

When the Tide goes nickel, they use five players who started as corners. All can cover, but the smaller safeties may need help in run support.

Opponents gain just 5.7 yards per punt return against the Tigers. Freshman Greg Huegel has made 25 of 29 field goal attempts.

ST

More than a third of sophomore JK Scott's punts have pinned opponents inside the 20. Senior returner Cyrus Jones has four punt return TDs.

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WINNER: ALABAMA

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DAVID KLUTHO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WATSON)

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DAVID KLUTHO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (HUEGEL)

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CHRIS KEANE FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (GALLMAN)

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JACOB KUPFERMAN/CAL SPORTS MEDIA (SCOTT)

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RAINIER EHRNARDT/AP (MAC LAIN)

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DANNIE WALLS/ICON SPORTSWIRE (DODD)

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DOUG BUFFINGTON/ICON SPORTSWIRE (GOODSON)

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TOM DIPACE (ALEXANDER)

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TOM PENNINGTON/GETTY IMAGES (COKER)

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TOM PENNINGTON/GETTY IMAGES (JONES)

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KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES (HENRY)

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POUYA DIANAT FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (HOWARD)

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GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (KELLY)

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GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ROBINSON)

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TIM HEITMAN/USA TODAY SPORTS (RAGLAND)

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TIM HEITMAN/USA TODAY SPORTS (MINKAH FITZPATRICK)