There was no guarantee that Alabama would win the national championship in its confrontation with Clemson Monday night at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, but the combination of Nick Saban, Tua Tagovailoa and a rock-ribbed defense appeared to give the Crimson Tide a very good chance of winning yet another title.
Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers were having none of it. Not only did they seize control of the game in the first half, but they also dominated what many believed was the best Alabama team in the Saban era and earned the national championship with a 44-16 victory.
Lawrence had a brilliant game, and he was the best quarterback on the field. The freshman QB was at his best on the big stage, and he completed 20 of 32 passes for 347 yards and three touchdown passes. More than the numbers, he was calm at the start of the game, focused as the game progressed and took advantage of mismatches whenever he saw them.
Lawrence was the offensive player of the game, and he drew nearly universal praise for his performance. Gil Brandt, the NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys personnel specialist who was recently installed in the team's Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium and is currently a Hall of Fame nominee, was straightforward and succinct in his praise:
However, it was not just about Lawrence. Freshman wideout Justyn Ross had an explosive game and dominated the Alabama secondary with his speed, moves, hands and toughness.
Ross came into the game as the Tigers' fourth-leading receiver in the number of receptions, but he was clearly the best receiver on the field.
Ross caught six passes for 153 yards, and that included a 74-yard TD reception early in the third quarter that appeared to be the knockout blow in the game.
While it was a brilliant night for the Tigers, it was nothing but disappointment for the Crimson Tide. A hungry and motivated Clemson team took them apart, and Clemson's Dabo Swinney outcoached Saban.
Many of Saban's decisions were questionable, including a decision to run a fake field goal on a 4th-and-6 play that saw his holder attempt to pick up the first down by running into the interior of the line.
Saban looked perplexed as the game unfolded, and his powerful defense could not sack Lawrence even once. Analyst Todd McShay called out Saban for taking it on the chin with his coaching decisions, while SEC media king Paul Finebaum anointed Swinney for the job he did in preparing his team:
Since the shock value of Clemson's dominance is the story of the moment, there is a feeling that the balance of power in college football is changing.
However, it would be wrong to think that Alabama is going away any time soon and the Crimson Tide won't be back in the title picture next season. OddsShark has them as the second choice to win next year's national championship:
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Tides go through phases. Some high, and some low. But both high and low share one trait...they continue. There is inevitability to the Tide. Each wave carries with it a certainty: It will regroup, it will grow stronger...and it will ALWAYS return. #OutworkYesterday #RollTide https://t.co/e5mEYamh7U