Clemson’s 44-16 thrashing of Alabama in the National Championship signaled a shift in the college football landscape.
Alabama is no longer alone at the top with every other team trying to reach the summit. After Monday night’s game, college football is now Alabama and Clemson in a class of their own and everyone else at least a tier below.
By now you’ve seen how the Tigers and the Crimson Tide compare over the last four seasons. Clemson owns a 55-4 record with two national titles. Alabama is 55-4 with a pair of championships as well.
What made Monday’s outcome in Santa Clara significant to college football moving forward is how Clemson won. Alabama has lost games under Nick Saban before, but the Tide have never been outplayed to the level they were earlier this week.
Saban was out coached by Dabo Swinney and Tigers’ Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. Clemson was the more focused, prepared, and physically-dominant football team. How many times has that statement been true regarding a Saban-coached team in a big game?
For the first time all season, Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa played a bad game. Under pressure from the Clemson defense all night, he threw two interceptions and 12 incomplete passes. While Tua’s injured ankle could be partly to blame for his off night, it did not slow him down in the semifinal win against Oklahoma.
The Tide coaching staff’s play calling did not do the 20-year-old quarterback any favors.
Trailing 31-16 midway through the 3rd quarter, Saban elected to run a fake field goal on 4th and 6. The highly predictable call, none of the Clemson defensive players put their hands up to try and block the kick, was easily stopped as the Alabama holder failed to gain six yards running up the middle.
Then early in the 4th quarter, the Crimson Tide ran three puzzling plays inside the 5 yard line.
On 2nd and goal from the 1, Running Back Damien Harris was stopped on an off tackle run for no gain.
The play call on 2nd down made sense. Harris is a physical runner and you would expect him to be able to punch the ball in from the 1 yard line.
What did not make sense was the decision to run the same play on 3rd and goal, as Harris was again tackled for a loss.
But the strangest call of the sequence was having Tua run the ball out of the shotgun on 4th and goal with a bad ankle. He was stuffed for a big loss and the end of the drive signaled the end of the game for Alabama.
Now the question is, what will Clemson and Alabama look like next year?
More than likely, the Tigers and Tide will meet in the playoffs again at the end of the 2019 season.
Coming off a remarkable season where he was a Heisman finalist, Tua returns to Tuscaloosa for another year. Offensive playmakers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle will all be back as well.
On the other side, Clemson has Quarterback Trevor Lawrence on campus for another two seasons. Plus, dynamic running back Travis Etienne and receivers Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins, and Amari Rodgers return as well.
Clemson and Alabama will both be loaded next year and it will probably take more than Syracuse or Auburn to keep them from meeting in the national championship again.
Graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism. Fan of all sports and a long-suffering Jets fan who will defend Sam Darnold at all times. Also, an above average golfer.