Like it or not, a fifth edition of the rivalry looks to be inevitable next year.
The Crimson Tide and Tigers unquestionably represent college football's elite. The two programs share a record of 106-4 over the past four years, excluding games in which they played each other.
Here's why the two current dynasties are destined to meet yet again in next year's College Football Playoff:
If no position in football is more important than quarterback, then good luck to anybody trying to knock off Alabama or Clemson next season.
Both pivots set the college world on fire this season, with Tagovailoa accounting for 46 total touchdowns and Lawrence putting up an absurd 27-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his true freshman season.
Virtually all of Alabama's skill position players will be joining Tagovailoa for the 2019 campaign, with stud receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Jaylen Waddle returning to Tuscaloosa. The Tide will also keep tight end Irv Smith and running back Najee Harris - a proposition which is terrifying to the rest of the SEC.
Lawrence will still be throwing to stars Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, and Amari Rodgers next season, and running back Travis Etienne, who broke the school's single-season record for rushing touchdowns this year, will also be back.
It was fairly obvious throughout the entire season that Alabama and Clemson were a tier above the competition, and it appears the 2019 season will be even tougher for those hoping to compete.
Third-ranked Notre Dame was outclassed by Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals and is set to lose a number of stars to graduation. Fourth-ranked Oklahoma provided more of a challenge to Alabama in the Orange Bowl, but the Sooners will lose Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray to pro football or baseball. Ohio State is set to lose starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins to the NFL draft, along with coach Urban Meyer to retirement. Those two moves could significantly weaken the Buckeyes.
Georgia and an ascending Texas program are expected to be the stiffest competition to the status quo entering the 2019 season, but they remain a substantial notch below college football's mainstays.
The brilliance of both Clemson and Alabama means both programs are set to lose a number of stars to the NFL.
Tigers defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, and Dexter Lawrence are all expected to be first-round picks, and fellow D-lineman Austin Bryant will also graduate. On the offensive side of the ball, left tackle Mitch Hyatt will be the biggest loss.
While these losses would cripple most programs, that won't be the case with these two juggernauts. As quickly as Alabama and Clemson churn out talent, they recruit suitable replacements.
The Tide currently own the No. 1 recruiting class for 2019, according to ESPN, with Clemson not far behind at No. 6.
After a successful first season with Lawrence leading the offense, he and Etienne should be able to cover for the major losses on the defensive side of the ball. 'Bama, on the other hand, never seems to lose a step, no matter who leaves the program.
The path back to the College Football Playoff shouldn't be an arduous one for either program.
Clemson will face little resistance from a weakened ACC in their bid for another conference title. Currently, their toughest test will be an early September matchup with Texas A&M that the Tigers will have the benefit of hosting at Death Valley.
Alabama's schedule doesn't include crossover games against any of the strongest programs in the SEC East, with the Tide avoiding both Georgia and Florida until the potential conference title game. They'll also have the benefit of two bye weeks that just happen to come before their two stiffest challenges of the season, at home against LSU and on the road against Texas A&M.
Since 2012, the Tide have scheduled matchups against established programs at neutral sites to open the season. The 2019 opener will come against a Duke outfit that will have lost star quarterback Daniel Jones to the NFL draft.
With all this taken into account, it shouldn't shock anybody if Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are on the sidelines next January for Alabama-Clemson V.
Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.