Alabama-Clemson, V.

Isn't that how we all believe this 2019 college football season is going to conclude? And why wouldn't we? The two have run into each other in the four-team College Football Playoff for four straight seasons, each school winning twice, though Clemson does hold a 2-1 edge in title game showdowns, including last year's 44-16 beatdown of Bama.

Beyond that, every preseason poll seems to have either the Crimson Tide or Tigers on top with the other one second.

As Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swafford told the Associated Press last month: "We've had four years where those two programs have in a sense separated themselves competitively on the field. You give them their due because it's been a remarkable run for both programs that appears to not be softening."

But should we just scrap the season and automatically put them in the CFP title game inside New Orleans' Superdome on the Monday night of Jan. 13, 2020?

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Mark Wiedmer

Or should we cling to the words of no less than Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, who told the AP, "One should not assume it will always be that way or it's going to stay in place, even though there are preseason projections."

If there is a single supreme beauty and attraction to college football over all other sports it is this: In a sport where a single bad loss can torpedo a season's worth of excellence — anyone remember Purdue 49, Ohio State 20 last season? — it is dangerous to assume anything.

In fact, last season was the first time both Bama and Clemson faced each other in the CFP with undefeated records.

So one or both of them might not make it to the playoffs for a fifth straight year, though even the wise guys in Las Vegas have the two of them as prohibitive co-favorites to accomplish just that.

And for those who enjoy a little bad blood forming between the two, there's begun to be a bit of that this summer.

The first bit of trash talk came from Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses at the SEC's annual Football Media Days in July, who said of that title game thumping: "I wouldn't say they were a better team because we both had great athletes on both sides of the ball. We just didn't prepare as much for Clemson. They obviously prepared more for us. They game-planned better than us."

Countered Clemson guard John Simpson (reportedly with a smile): "Those guys are really, really talented over there, man. If that's how they feel, then that's just how they feel. I don't want to say this, but Georgia didn't beat them by 28 points, you know what I'm saying?"

Added Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, an Alabama native and former Tide wide receiver and assistant coach, when asked about the general feeling that the Tide's run through the SEC last season was more draining than the Tigers' ACC schedule: "You don't just come out of a soft conference and haven't played anybody and all of a sudden go out and beat Notre Dame and Alabama. I mean, give me a break."

To bolster Swinney's point, Bama has actually enjoyed a slightly easier go of it in conference play than Clemson. The Tide is 26-1 over its last 27 SEC games. The Tigers are 25-2 over that same span in the ACC.

But while both Alabama and Clemson have road games that could derail them — the Tigers must visit dangerous Syracuse on Sept. 14; the Tide's title dreams could come undone at Texas A&M on Oct. 12 — most believe Bama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence are too talented to lose to anyone but the other.

Still, the best Hollywood ending for this season would involve a former Alabama quarterback who has found a new home at Oklahoma.

Memorable as Tide-Tigers V might be, could anything, for shear drama, top Jalen Hurts leading the Sooners into the Superdome against Tua and the Tide? After all, Hurts was 26-2 as a starter at Alabama before losing his spot to Tagovailoa at halftime of the 2017 national championship comeback win over Georgia.

Beyond that, it was Hurts to the rescue in last season's SEC title game comeback win over those same Bulldogs.

After that game, Bama boss Nick Saban said of Hurts: "I've probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen. It's unprecedented (what Hurts has gone through losing his starting job). How do you handle that? You've got to have a tremendous amount of character and class to put the team first."

It was unprecedented, indeed. But as good as that story was, Hurts putting the ultimate hurt on his old team in his final college game would be a better one, if only because unless your college football loyalties start and stop with Alabama or Clemson, Tide-Tigers V is at least one sequel too many.

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