Entering Saturday night’s huge game between Alabama and Clemson, there were a lot of questions that needed answering on both sides. How far has Nick Saban brought the Tide back after only one year? How good is this seemingly talented Clemson team that is highly ranked but plays in a conference that is losing respect?
The eyes of the other SEC teams were on this game, as well. We know the conference is loaded, and if Alabama is better than expected, that could shake things up. With so many other good teams, no one was counting on Alabama being all the way back yet.
Make no mistake about the fact that everyone wanted to see how good the Tigers were, and what that would mean for the ACC. The ACC is nowhere near as strong as it once was, and, as a conference, it hasn’t won a BCS bowl game in years. Many expected this to be a coming out party for Clemson.
No one expected Alabama to overwhelm the Tigers the way they did from start to finish. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and never let the Tigers establish anything.
CJ Spiller and James Davis were supposed to be the two-headed monster on the ground that would set the tone, but Saban’s defense did an excellent job taking them away and forcing Cullen Harper to beat them with his arm.
He was under pressure most of the game, and when he wasn't, 'Bama's defensive backs were all over the receivers. Harper's receivers didn't help him out at all by dropping passes that were right in their hands.
Clemson was completely over-powered by Alabama’s offensive line. The Tide was able to create room up the middle for their backs whenever necessary. They did an excellent job in protecting John Parker Wilson. He exploited the Clemson defense continually with short, quick passes that the Tigers had no answers for.
Surprisingly, Clemson could not generate a consistent pass rush, and their defensive backs seemed lost on some key passing downs. Alabama repeatedly converted third down and short passing plays and Clemson never adjusted their coverage to take those plays away and force Alabama to throw down the field. You got the feeling that the Tigers were out-coached as well as out-played.
The way this game played out made you think that Clemson got caught reading their press clippings and thought all they had to do was show up. Nick Saban had his team ready to play, and ready for whatever the Tigers would throw at them. Kudos to him and his staff. I have to conclude that Clemson is overrated and will have to spend the rest of this year proving this was a fluke.
This doesn’t bode well for the ACC as a whole. With Virginia Tech losing to East Carolina on Saturday as well, a mediocre conference all of a sudden has shown itself to be weak. The Florida States and the Miamis will be lumped in with the mediocre bunch, as well.
Even though we can’t say that Alabama is all the way back based on beating Clemson, things just got more interesting in the SEC. The Crimson Tide just made everyone’s schedule in the SEC look a little harder.
On the whole, I think this game was more a reflection on Clemson and its conference. A few years ago you could have argued that the ACC was among the best. My, how the mighty have fallen.