About two-months ago, I don’t think anyone in the college football world believed Clemson would actually go on to win a National Championship, especially against a team like Alabama.
Back on November 12th, the Tigers dropped a 43-42 decision to Pitt after a last second field goal sunk the Tigers on their home field. It was an outcome many thought was in the making for Clemson given the way they played with fire seemingly the entire year. Sure they had their signature wins against the likes of Florida State and Louisville but college football fans and talking heads alike weren’t ready to forget those close calls against Troy to start the season and NC State on October 15th.
The general belief was Clemson wasn’t that good while others questioned their spot in the college football playoff.
However those notions where quickly extinguished New Years Eve when the Tigers embarrassed Ohio State to the tune of 31-0 while holding the Buckeyes to a meager 215 all-purpose yards.
But could this carry over to the defending Champs who disposed of Washington 24-7 and pretty much laid waste to just about the entire SEC? Could they enact some revenge against the Bama team that managed to edge out a 45-40 victory in last year’s National Championship Game?
Unknowing to the rest of the country, except the Clemson players and coaching staff the formula for taking down the 2016 Crimson Tide machine was there. It was just a matter of execution.
The Tigers had the dual-threat QB in Deshaun Watson, a style of signal caller that has had a history of causing all sorts of problems for the Alabama defense in the past. They had the contingent of big receivers to wear down Nick Saban’s secondary and they apparently had the game plan and execution to take down the best team in the country.
Clemson thought, if they could manage 60 offensive plays by the fourth quarter they’d put themselves in a good spot to wear down the Alabama secondary and hopefully secure a win. The Tigers eventually managed to surpass that threshold by the third quarter and finished the game with a total of 99 offensive plays.
And how did this turn out for the Clemson wide-outs?
I’m assuming exactly how the Tigers’ coaches predicted.
Mike Williams (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), Jordan Leggett (6-foot-5, 260-pounds) and Deon Cain (6-foot-1, 200-pounds) all managed at least five receptions for 90-plus yards. Meanwhile, Hunter Renfrow who measured in at 5-foot-10 and 175-pounds was getting good separation from the Alabama defenders while making the catch of the season in his total of 99 snaps, 92 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner with a second left on the clock.
As for Watson, the 420 yards and three touchdowns may have some looking back and wonder if the Heisman voting was done after bowl season would he be in line to take the honor. More importantly though for Watson, given his performance that NFL Draft stock just shot up like no other.
So how does this translate to next season? Watson is going to the NFL as he should. The same goes for Mike Williams so who knows what kind of turnover Clemson will have heading into 2017. But yet again, the formula for defeating Alabama is there. It’s just a matter of teams taking taking it and executing it… if they have the means to try.