When Nick Saban looked for Dabo Swinney after the game for the postgame hand shake, amd it took a while for S to find him, there wasn't any bitterness or animosity on his face. No, S was more serene; he looked at peace with his team's effort in one of the greatest games in college football lore.
Clemson 35, Alabama 31 was spectacular in so many ways and with so many strorylines. S trying to tie Paul "Bear" Bryant for most national titles in a career at 6. While he didn't achieve that last night, there's a good chance he very well will. Dabo and Clemson's year goal since 365 days before was to get back to the national championship game and finish the job. Deshaun Watson's other worldly performance against one of the best defenses college football has seen to this point was something that should be remembered for a long time. The play of the Clemson receivers, led by former walk on Hunter Renfrow, tight end Jordan Leggett, superstar Mike Williams, and the rejuvenated Deon Cain was surreally good. The play calling of Steve Sarkisian was pretty darn good in my opinion. Jalen Hurts has had his share of critics, who I disagree with, but he had an extraordinary year overall in many ways and came through in the clutch last night with the TD throw to O.J. Howard, which was a super call by Sark, and the amazing TD run in the last 2 minutes, which was superbly clutch by a clutch player. I'm a big fan of Jalen Hurts.
So it was a remarkable, spectacular performance by the team that is the standard for excellence in college football in the Crimson Tide, and a team that is establishing it's own exceptional legacy in the Clemson Tigers.
Some really interesting stats: Deshaun was 36 of 56 for 420 yards, 3 TDs and no ints. He also had a terrific 12 yard TD run in which he ran it left, skirted around the corner, kept his feet in bounds and got over the endzone for the score. The Crimson Tide defense, as usual, held the Tigers to an average of 2.5 yards rushing, but Clemson ran for 91 yards, which was better than everybody else that has faced this vaunted defense all year. Washington Coach Chris Peterson said before his semifinal game with Bama, that even though you might be unsuccessful most of the time running the ball against the Tide defense, you have to try and get some semblance of balance, so you can throw it effectively. Clemson didn't get much against the Crimson Tide defense, but it gave them a better shot at throwing the ball.
For Clemson, Renfrow caught 10 passes for 92 yards and two TDs, including the game winner, Williams caught 8 passes for 94 yards, Leggett caught 7 passes for 95 yards and Deon Cain, who was suspended last year for the playoff, caught 5 passes for 94 yards. They were super. There was a lot of talk about two of Clemson's touchdown being "pick" plays, which are illegal. There is a difference between pick plays and rub routes. Picks are pass interference by the offense when one receiver crosses another and sets a pick on the defensive back just like picks in basketball. The rub is where one receiver crosses another very closely but doesn't interfere with the db. It's a highly subjective call for the officials, and it didn't work out for the Crimson Tide last night. Could have been called, but wasn't.
It was tough for the Crimson Tide that they lost the superb Bo Scarbrough in the second half. Bo had already run for 93 yards and two TDs in the first half and looked like he was going to go off all game and give the Clemson defense multiple nightmares. But he went down with a leg injury early in the second half which turned out to be a broken leg. Clemson lost star defensive end Christian Wilkins during the first half, so they were a man down on defense.
Despite those injuries, the game was spectacular, remarkable, certainly one that will go down in the history books as one of the greatest college football games ever played. The build up was massive and the game was more than could have been imagined. It's like anticipating playing at Augusta National for an amateur golfer and experience a little slice of Heaven on Earth when you play. The game seemed other-worldly, spiritual in a sense with the amount of spectacularity to it.
I know Alabama fans are disappointed, but four national championships in 8 years ai'nt bad. It's spectacular by a coach and a program that has made an all time historic run in college football, maybe never seen before in the game. Coach Bryant certainly was a superb, but Coach Saban is right there with him, and with the 85 scholarship limit that S has had to work with versus the 130 scholarships the Bear had, it may even be more remarkable. If I had to give an edge at this point, I'd have to go with S. Coach Bryant is an institution in Alabama and college football and always will be, but Coach Saban has certainly proved he's as great if not greater. Both men were and are the best the game has ever seen.
And Dabo Swinney has made his mark as a great in college football. It is undebatable that Dabo and S are the best today. S still has a pretty size-able edge, but Dabo is better than everybody else. I'd go S, Dabo, Jimbo Fisher, Harbaugh and James Franklin at this point and I fully expect Kirby Smart to get into that company as well.
College football couldn't be in better shape. What an extraordinary sporting event last night. It doesn't get any better than that in sports. What a game college football is. That was the best of the best last night in Raymond James Stadium, and the 2017 season will be hear before we know it. Alabama has a shot at its fifth title in 9 years in 2017. Super freshmen, 5-star running back Najee Harris and 5 star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, are on campus ready to go. it's offseason workouts with Scott Cochran now along with the other strength coaches throughout the country. Jalen will be battling it out with Tua in the spring and summer. The ceiling is through the roof for Jalen and it sounds like it is for Tua as well. Bo will be back next year, very hopefully, better than ever. He is an electrically exciting running back to watch. He's a pure thrill to watch play the game of football. Damian Harris, Joshua Jacobs, a couple of rbs who were hurt, and Najee will be locked and loaded in the backfield. Calvin will be back. Believe ArDarius will be back. Tide loses the great Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, O. J. Howard, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams and Eddie Jackson, who was the consummate champion during his injury. But there is talent off the charts that will be back. The cupboard is stocked for another remarkable season in 2017. Fox Sports had their really early poll for 2017 and the Crimson Tide is sitting at No.1.
So 2017 is already cranking. Recruiting is going full throttle, the spring games are in two months and then summer is right around the corner with August, preseason practices ready to roll.
The Tide opens up with Florida State in a blockbuster, Saturday, September 2 in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. That epic gets another spectacular season started. This season was a memorable one, and the championship game was superb, surreally good game. 2016 was sensational, 2017 will be just as riveting maybe even more-so if that's possible. Can't wait to find out.