Saban, Crimson tide remain supreme with 4th national title

AUSTIN HAMM Sports Editor

Watson sets yardage record in Clemson’s first loss of season

Sometimes I feel that this phrase is often overused by sports broadcasters as they attempt to make a game seem almost larger than life, but it seems to be one of the best ways to describe the CFP National Championship game played between Alabama and Clemson Monday night.

The talking points coming out of this game are endless. From the ‘Bama onside kick in the fourth quarter to DeShaun Watson breaking Vince Young’s record for total yards in a national championship game, there are a lot of things to take in. So in the interest of efficiency, I’m just going to run down a few of my favorites.

1.     Roll Tide

Nick Saban and his machine at Alabama maintained their status as the greatest program of our time, winning their fourth title in seven years and joining Notre Dame as the only programs to have accomplished that. The Irish did it from 1943-49.

To me, Alabama’s run is more impressive as they have accomplished in an era of far greater parity in college football, and have accomplished it in both the BCS and College Football Playoff.

It all combines to make arguably one of the greatest runs in the history of the sport.

2.     Clemson Rising

No one gave the Tigers a real shot at getting the win on Monday, or on New Year’s Eve against Oklahoma for that matter, but Dabo Swinney’s squad gave as good as they got for the entirety of the championship game.

Their defensive front had Tide quarterback Jake Coker under pressure all night, they outgained the Crimson tide 550 yards to 473 and had 31 first downs compared to ‘Bama’s 18—they never gave up, even at a time when many teams would have after an onside kick and kick return for a score. Enough pieces are coming back—watch out for the Tigers next year.

3.     O.J Howard(!)

The 6-6 tight end had played a negligible role in the Tide’s offense this year, with no touchdowns and a yardage high of 70, which came in a shootout loss to Ole Miss. In fact, the towering junior hadn’t made a trip to the end zone since his freshman year (2013) and had a total of 394 yards this year.

But he showed up in the biggest way in the biggest game, torching Clemson with five catches for 208 yards and a pair of long touchdowns. In a night when Coker threw for 335 yards and a pair of scores, and Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry ran for 158 yards and three scores, I think Howard’s performance is the biggest reason Alabama was able to prevail.

4.     Speaking of Henry

It seems almost a travesty that I took this long to get to the Heisman winner in this column, but that was just the nature of this game.

Henry was fantastic with the aforementioned stat line, but it almost has become ho-hum greatness. The way Henry wowed us this week was actually not with his play, but with a pregame image of him standing next to, and dwarfing, Alabama’s other Heisman winner, Mark Ingram.

At 6-3, 240 pounds, Henry is known to have atypical size for his position, but to see him look like such a monstrous being next to another Tide great who is also a legitimate NFL player, it gave many people shudders as to what the future may hold for Henry, and it also gave way to some excellent tweets with the picture.

5.     Let’s do it again

Watson comes back. Henry is replaced by, presumably, Bo Scarbrough, a 6-2 240 pound freshman who averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 18 touches this year.

It feels safe to assume that both defenses will be adequately refurbished after some upper classmen head to the NFL. Right now, as far as I’m concerned, if next season’s championship is a rematch, I couldn’t be happier.