The Clemson Tigers and their talented and enthusiastic head football coach, Dabo Swinney, have earned the right to celebrate. After dominating the Alabama Crimson Tide for the final three quarters and winning their second BCS (large school) national championship in the past three years, Clemson surprised everyone but themselves with their 44-16 victory on Monday night.
Here are my ten takeaways from the championship game:
- Happiest for? Clemson senior DT Christian Wilkins. Wilkins, a Bednarik Award finalist this year, became the first football player at Clemson to graduate in 2½ years, earning a degree in communications. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in athletic leadership. On December. 4, Wilkins was named recipient of the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented annually to the top football scholar-athlete in the nation.
- Alabama’s kryptonite? A team with a great passing game. The majority of teams in the Southeastern Conference are known for their “Rock’em, Sock’em” style of play which rarely feature quarterbacks and wide receivers as talented as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross.
- Clemson’s defensive strategy. Clemson kept moving players toward the line of scrimmage as if to blitz Alabama’s talented quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, on nearly every down. Sometimes they blitzed and other times they didn’t. Tua’s “two-a” interceptions (one went for a Clemson touchdown) gave Clemson’s defense a spark and more confidence.
- Fourth down SEC trickery should be left to Les Miles. Earlier this season, Georgia lost all momentum with a failed fourth down fake field goal in a loss to LSU and, a month ago, with a fake fourth down punt against Alabama. On Monday, Alabama surprisingly attempted a fake field goal in the third quarter against Clemson when only down by 16 points. It failed miserably, and you could feel Bama’s momentum die along with it. Former LSU coach Les Miles was the master of fourth down deception, but he was ultimately fired by the Tigers, too.
- An enduring halftime entertainment image.
- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is the nation’s hottest recruiter. Clemson’s key offensive stars all came from states with the SEC’s most dominant teams. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (Georgia), wide receiver Justyn Ross (Alabama) and running back Travis Etienne (Louisiana) would have made a big difference for the Bulldogs, Tide, and LSU’s Tigers this year, wouldn’t they?
- Ironic Moment – Alabama QB Jalen Hurts. After starting and winning every game for Alabama last year, Hurts was benched at halftime in favor of Tua Tagovailoa, who led Bama to a late victory over Georgia in last year’s national championship game. During Monday’s game, I thought that Alabama abandoned its bread and butter running game too early against Clemson in favor of Tua’s passing threat. Would Coach Saban have been better off running the ball more with Jalen Hurts during the second half of this game and keeping Clemson’s offense off the field? Just sayin’…
- The BCS playoffs won’t be expanded anytime soon. With Clemson and Alabama reloading every year with talented players, I almost wish that the NFL would simply expand to take these two teams out of the college football mix. Though I have nothing but respect for both programs, many college football fans would say that the current BCS format (four team playoff) should return back to the best two teams selected after the traditional bowl games end. There’s no use to expand to an eight or 16 team playoff system anytime soon.
- Alabama coach Nick Saban needs to ditch his all-white coaching jacket. My lovely wife made the observation that the television shots of coach Saban pacing on the Alabama sideline with his arms-folded made it look like he was wearing a strait jacket! On the other hand, there wasn’t much he COULD do on Monday night to prevent Clemson’s offensive onslaught.
- The better team won. Nick Saban offered no excuses after the game last night. He said that Clemson deserved to win the game. You can count on Alabama learning a few important lessons from this loss as college football’s most successful coach of this era gets back to work – soon!