Clemson Wins National Title. Clemson 35, Alabama 31: Five Provocative Musings
Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 for the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Deshaun Watson now goes into history as one of college football’s all-time greatest quarterbacks
Not only did he almost pull off the national title last year, but he beat Ohio State, he beat Alabama, and he got Clemson a historic championship by completing 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards and three scores, and running for 43 yards and a score.
Time and again, Alabama had the Tiger offense pinned deep, and time and again, he hit throw after throw to march Clemson to scores. He wasn’t all that sharp early on, but it quickly changed as the game went on, finding his rhythm, overcoming an improved pass rush, and pulling off one of the all-time great wins in college football history.
There’s the Vince Young game against USC, and now there are the Deshaun Watson games against Alabama.
Yeah, the Clemson defense came up with a special performance. Yeah, the receiving corps was great. Yeah, Clemson’s team showed the resiliency.
But Watson did it.
The Jalen Hurts problem
He couldn’t throw.
He connected on one 68-yard pass to O.J. Howard for a touchdown that seemed to give Alabama a grip on the game, but that was it. For the game, he completed just 13-of-31 passes for 131 yards and a that one score, and while he ran for a 30-yard touchdown, he couldn’t hit the throws he needed to make to keep drives going and put the game away.
Alabama was 2-of-15 on third down conversion attempts – and that’s the difference.
Clemson had an NFL quarterback, Alabama didn’t. Clemson won the national title.
Give it to the Clemson defense. It wasn’t Sarkisian’s fault
It’ll be the easy narrative that changing up offensive coordinators had something to do with the Alabama issues in the loss – nope.
Clemson’s defense figured out that Hurts couldn’t hit anything other than a busted coverage touchdown throw to Howard, sold out against the run, and stuffed just enough drives to let Watson do his thing. Knocking Bo Scarbrough out of the game didn’t hurt the cause, but Alabama still finished with 221 yards on the ground and Bama did what it could to get the lead late.
Sarkisian called a brilliant drive to give the Crimson Tide the late lead, with the 4th-and-1 call, the trick play, and getting help from the Hurts run. But …
The Alabama defense failed
Watson might have been fantastic, and the Clemson receivers got the job done, but Alabama’s defense that was so, so good all year couldn’t come up with the stops it needed. Watson was better, the Clemson receivers were better, and the Alabama secondary couldn’t make the plays. The run defense did its job – the Tigers ran for just 91 yards – but the big, bad, amazing Alabama defense had its chance to come up with one final stop for the national title, and it couldn’t do it.
Does this change the face of college football
Sort of. At the very least, it pops the Nick Saban balloon.
Alabama is still going to be the No. 1 team in college football to start next season – at worst in the top three. Clemson loses Watson and a whole slew of offensive superstars, but it’ll still be fantastic. However, how does this really make a difference? Now Dabo Swinney is a national championship head coach.
Now you have to put him in the mix among the elite of the elite head coaches – as if he wasn’t there already. This cements it.
Now, Swinney and Clemson have become legendary. They did the impossible – they beat Urban Meyer. They beat Nick Saban. They came up with the wins against the biggest bad boys on the block, and they earned it.
Clemson Tigers. National champions.