Never in all my years—there have been a lot of them—have I ever seen a team as good as Alabama so thoroughly demolished by a team that was equally good. Let’s remember that mid-year, Alabama was possibly the best college football team of all time. The Tide received the best grades ever calculated by the RPG system. But Clemson lurked, and Clemson ate away at the deficit, and following its semi-final blowout of Notre Dame, Clemson inched past Alabama in our rankings. That made Clemson one of the very best teams of all time.
So, we called the game a tossup that would be decided by big breaks and big plays and that’s what we got. On Alabama’s first possession Tua was scared into a bad pass that became a pick six. Bad sign for Bama. Later when Alabama clung to a 16 – 14 lead, Tua threw a perfect over the shoulder bomb … to a Clemson defender. Really bad sign for Bama. Clemson rolled down the field to the go-ahead touchdown and the game was over.
Three times Bama drove into the Red Zone but lacked the imagination to score. Clemson converted nine times out of fourteen chances on third down; Alabama converted just four of thirteen chances. Clemson had eight plays longer than twenty-five yards; Bama had just two. Tua was pressured all night, Trevor Lawrence wasn’t.
This game wasn’t a blowout because Clemson was that much better a team than Alabama. The talent levels are equivalent. The capabilities and performances this year were equivalent. This blowout wasn’t the result of one team showing up and the other sleeping in. This game was lopsided because Dabo Swinney and Brent Venables out-coached and out-schemed Nick Saban and his itinerant staff. The Clemson coaches knew what Saban would do and Saban never surprised them. Clemson prevented Bama from doing what it wanted to do and the Alabama coaches never came up with a counter, never adjusted. On offense Clemson did what it wanted and Alabama never found a way to stop it. It was an X’s and O’s victory for the Tigers.
The dirty little secret in Tuscaloosa is that Alabama plays vanilla football. Sure, Tua threw some long bombs this year but they were vanilla plays as well, plays in which the Bama receivers were better athletes than the defenders. Saban beats you with better talent, superior preparation, and flawless execution. Last night they faced a team with equal talent, excellent preparation, and a better scheme that disrupted Bama’s execution.
Sad to say, but every dynasty comes to an end (think: Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians, etc.). When the competition closes the talent gap and invents better ways to wage war, dynastic rulers fall. The talent gap is closing. I’m just saying …
One last note of sympathy to Tua Tagovailoa. Mid-season, he was the best thing since sliced bread. Since then he’s been injured, surgically repaired, second-best in the Heisman race, and now second best to a teenager in the championship game. Nonetheless, we look forward to watching him play next year.
Goodbye for now. See you next season.
For a complete list of final rankings visit www.nemosnumbers.com. If you want to know how the numerical grades are calculated, find a copy of Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics wherever you buy books.