Alabama-Clemson is a national championship rematch with one unique twist.
The guy calling plays for the top-ranked Crimson Tide will be doing so for the first time with Alabama.
When head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin parted ways last week -- ostensibly because Kiffin had become distracted by his duties as new head coach at Florida Atlantic -- it created the ultimate X-factor for the third College Football Playoff title game, which kicks off at 8 p.m. ET in Tampa, Fla., on Monday night.
Hello, Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian has been with the program almost all season as an offensive analyst, able to help with the game plan and such, but he was prohibited from offering coaching or instruction to the players until this week's promotion.
Sarkisian, the former head coach at Washington and USC, was fired from his job with the Trojans in October 2015 amid an alleged substance abuse problem.
Sarkisian visited Alabama in fall camp for a week, figuring he would try to do some TV work this season. But Saban found him a behind-the-scenes role that has morphed into being at the center of a white-hot spotlight.
Can he find a play-calling rhythm against an attacking and stout Clemson defense? Will he know exactly the right thing to say on the sideline to true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts?
How will he blend Alabama's multiple threats -- Hurts' legs, running backs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris, receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart, tight end O.J. Howard?
Alabama has been ranked No. 1 all season and has been No. 1 at some point for a record nine consecutive seasons. The previous record was seven, set by Miami from 1986 to 1992.