Story By Andrew Lang
Photos By: Sol Tucker and Benjamin Rogers, Jr.
I must say we have covered a lot of college football games over the years and there are quite a few that rank up there as one of the best games in NCAA history, but tonight the Clemson Tigers proved that one second can make a champion and one second can make one a game one of the most historic Title Championships ever.
Facing an Alabama defense that was operating at a historic levels coming into the game, Deshaun Watson sliced and diced the Tide for a nine play, 68 yard march toward the end zone. With a make or break play coming up, the game’s offensive MVP dropped back and smoothly found ever reliable target Hunter Renfrow wide open in the end zone with just one second left.
That set off a wild celebration among the Clemson faithful as the school celebrated its second national title — and first since 1981 — in the sweetest of fashions. It was a game for the ages given the ending and tense final moments but will no doubt be remembered for an incredible drive that culminated in a championship for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.
The Tigers became the fifth-greatest upset champions since 1975, beating a Crimson Tide squad that, at its peak, was ranked as the best team in modern college history.
Clemson has never been longstanding members of college football royalty. Clemson won the national title in 1981, but it also spent most of the 1990s and 2000s as a decent-but-not-great program. It wasn’t until coach Dabo Swinney’s third or fourth full season at the helm that the Tigers became a permanent presence among the nation’s top 10 teams.
For Alabama, this game was one where a true freshman quarterback shined, but wasn’t able to capitalize when big opportunities presented themselves. In previous seasons, the Roll Tide was exactly what it was, rolling over opponents and tonight it was a defensive battle that the offense just could not find a way to overcome.
Some of the stats below speak for themselves when it comes to showcasing how great of a game this really was.
|SEASON||CHAMPION||BOWL RESULT||BOWL OPPONENT||PREGAME ELO WIN PROBABILITY|
|2002||Ohio State||31-24, Fiesta Bowl||Miami (FL)||22.2%|
|1983||Miami (FL)||31-30, Orange Bowl||Nebraska||25.9|
|2006||Florida||41-14, BCS Championship||Ohio State||28.6|
|1992||Alabama||34-13, Sugar Bowl||Miami (FL)||30.5|
|2016||Clemson||35-31, CFP Championship||Alabama||32.9|
|1981||Clemson||22-15, Orange Bowl||Nebraska||34.0|
|2000||Oklahoma||13-2, Orange Bowl||Florida State||35.8|
|2005||Texas||41-38, Rose Bowl||USC||39.8|
|2014||Ohio State||42-20, CFP Championship||Oregon||40.1|
|2010||Auburn||22-19, BCS Championship||Oregon||41.9|