Clemson stormed the castle doors and threw a wrench into Alabama's national championship party #18 last night. It's not what I thought would happen, and judging from the reaction on social media and on the airwaves today, I wasn't alone. So what happened? First of all, we might have been too influenced by Alabama's defensive beat down of Clemson in last year's semifinals. It's a new year with different teams. The conventional thought was, "Alabama did that without even playing Tua." True. But Clemson didn't have Trevor Lawrence either. What a difference he and their freshman WR out of Phenix City Justyn Ross made in the game. They were incredible.
Two areas where I thought Bama would expose Clemson were the Tigers' offensive line and defensive secondary. Neither really happened. Clemson's offensive line was not considered a real strength of the team but someone forgot to tell them that. They provided their young quarterback with plenty of clean pockets to operate in. With time and space, he delivered one impressive downfield strike after another.
Conversely, Clemson's defense kept the pressure on Tua all night. Brett Venable's attacking athletes kept him second guessing and scrambling for four quarters. The Tigers were the superior team when the situations were the biggest. Between unconverted fourth down tries and a failed fake punt, Alabama had three consecutive trips to the red zone result in zero points. Does that sound typical of this season's Alabama offense?
I would not go so far as to say that Clemson is hands down the better team of the two, but last night they played like it. Last night they were the better team. This morning the wake up as National Champions.