Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Heading into the 2019 college football season, Clemson and Alabama have once again separated themselves from the pack.

Driving the news: The two schools battled for the spotlight yesterday, as both held court — and traded barbs— during their respective conference's media days.

  • The backdrop: The two schools have met in the national championship three of the past four seasons, with Clemson holding a 2-1 advantage. (They met in the semifinals the other year and Alabama won).

The intrigue: Clemson won last year's title game in a dominating fashion, 44-16. As a result, the Tigers are the faces of college football and appear to have the upper hand over the Tide heading into this season in a way they haven't in years past.

  • As CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd puts it, "Alabama has lost before [but] losses like the one to Clemson tend to stand out as landmarks."

Clemson's outlook:

  • Good news: Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers will likely run away with the ACC again. They've won 34 of their past 36 conference games and outscored opponents by an average of 31+ points last season.
  • Bad news: While they're still loaded, the Tigers must replace four all-world defensive linemen (Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant) along with their top three linebackers.

Alabama's outlook:

  • Good news: The Tide had the most efficient passing game in the nation last year and pretty much everyone is back … and a year older. QB Tua Tagovailoa's top two targets, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, are both elite NFL prospects.
  • Bad news: This is one of Coach Nick Saban's least experienced teams. Plus, they have to play Auburn at their place, where they've lost two of their previous three meetings.

P.S. ... Five of the 10 best players in the country play for either Clemson or Alabama, according to SI's recently released rankings. No other school has more than one player in the top 25, let alone the top 10.

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson)
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB (Alabama)
  3. Jonathan Taylor, RB (Wisconsin)
  4. Jerry Jeudy, WR (Alabama)
  5. Derrick Brown, DL (Auburn)
  6. Grant Delpit, S (LSU)
  7. Travis Etienne, RB (Clemson)
  8. Rondale Moore, WR (Purdue)
  9. Chase Young, DL (Ohio State)
  10. Raekwon Davis, DL (Alabama)

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