2018-2019 CFB Playoff National Championship (Clemson vs Alabama)
Via cbssports.com SANTA CLARA, Calif. — You simply don’t get blowouts against Nick Saban’s Alabama like that very often — or ever, in fact. And yet, that’s exactly what Clemson did by beating the Crimson Tide 44-16 to win the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship and capture its second national title in three years.
In doing so, the Tigers became the first team in modern college football history to finish a season 15-0 and the first overall to do so since Penn in 1897. No. 1 seeds, meanwhile, fell to 3-5 in CFP games and a resounding 0-for in the national championship.
Alabama-Clemson IV was polarizing in a number of ways. There was no doubt that these were the two best teams in college football, as they had been the top two wire-to-wire from preseason until now. However, with “fatigue” apparently setting in among casual fans, this game didn’t quite have the build-up as previous editions did. That view looked to be silly early on, though, with a 27-point first quarter that had plenty of momentum swings — from pick-sixes to long touchdowns.
In the end, Clemson pulled away in stunning fashion as it accounted for 482 yards of offense on just 63 plays. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 347 yards for his second straight postseason game and nearly became the 10th college quarterback to throw for 350 yards against a Saban-led defense. Lawrence became the first true freshman starting quarterback to win a national championship since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985.
1. Clemson is going to be terrifying for years to come. Clemson won its first national championship under coach Dabo Swinney two years ago with a NFL-ready quarterback in Deshaun Watson and lots of veteran leadership on both sides of the ball. It was a title three or four years in the making that took recruitment and development by Swinney and his staff. And while there were plenty of veterans on this year’s team, Clemson’s title in 2019 feels far more youthful. Lawrence and receiver Justyn Ross, who hauled in a pair of miraculous catches as part of a 153-yard day, are true freshmen. Running back Travis Etienne, the ACC’s leading rusher, is a sophomore, as is leading receiver Tee Higgins (who had 81 yards and a score vs. Alabama).
The impact that these offensive players made not just tonight but all season long is something that defenses will have to deal with for along time. In Lawrence’s case, we’re talking another two years at least, though he did tell ESPN after the game he wanted to win “three” more national championships. Take that for what it’s worth, but with plenty of young talent around him, Clemson’s trajectory doesn’t look like it’s plateauing anytime soon. And now that Clemson is recruiting at a top-10 level, young guys will continue to come into the program and push for playing time.
2. The real MVP? Brent Venables: Lawrence and cornerback Trayvon Mullen were named the game’s most valuable players, but if we’re being honest, the real MVP (MVC?) was Clemson’s defensive coordinator. Venables was the one who disguised coverages that led to a pair of Tagovailoa interceptions as well as seven tackles for loss. He was the one who in the second half orchestrated a defense that stopped Alabama’s offense cold on three straight trips inside the 25-yard line. Alabama averaged 6.06 yards per play, well below its average of 7.89 that ranked second nationally. The Crimson Tide were held to 31 points below their season average as well. Of all the mismatches on the field, the one in the booth was most noticeable. Venables called one heck of a game.
3. Alabama uncharacteristically played its worst game at the worst time: This isn’t to say Alabama would have won if it had been sharper on Monday night, but goodness, the Tide did not play their best game at all when they absolutely needed. Tagovailoa threw two bad interceptions that were good defense (see above) but also terrible throws and reads on his part. Though Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy runner up, still finished with 295 yards passing, he was replaced in the fourth quarter by Jalen Hurts when it was clear the game was out of hand.
Of course, Alabama’s loss is not only on the quarterback. Bama was uncharacteristically sloppy with ball security (two fumbles, none lost) and penalties (six for 60 yards). Plus, there were Alabama’s usual kicking woes (one missed extra point and a kickoff out of bounds) and Saban’s decision to try a fake field goal while using his kicker as a lead blocker was ill-advised to say the least. This was a strange game for Saban in that it actually seemed out of control on his end. That never happens.