SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Clemson did something that no other team had done to a Nick Saban-coached Alabama Crimson Tide team in Monday night’s 44-16 victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
The Tigers dominated the Crimson Tide. And in the process, they may have signaled a changing of the guard in college football.
“I mean, our guys had the eye of the tiger, but I'm so proud, and then for our seniors to be able to go out 15-0 and truly be the best ever. There was a lot of talk about best ever all year long,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We were never in that conversation. But tonight, there's no doubt. First 15-0 team, to beat Notre Dame and to beat Alabama to do it, this team won 13 games by 20 points or more and led by an unbelievable group of seniors, amazing group. I'm just thankful to be a part of it.”
While the Tigers may have not been in the discussion for the 2018 season of being the best team ever — there is little doubt they will open the 2019 season as the hunted. Especially after what they did to the unstoppable force known as the Crimson Tide.
Monday night, they handed Saban his worst loss since 2006 — when the Buffalo Bills beat a Saban-led Miami Dolphins team 21-0. It was also the first time since 2011 that a Crimson Tide team had not force a turnover or have a sack. And the Tigers have defeated the Crimson Tide two of the three times the two teams have met in the national title game.
But maybe the biggest sign that there is a changing of the guard occurring in college football may be the fact that one of the biggest thorns in the side of the Crimson Tide in Monday’s loss was a true freshman wide receiver from Phenix City, Alabama, named Justyn Ross — who spurned the instate Tide for the Tigers last February.
Ross finished the game with six catches for 153 yards, but it was his two acrobatic grabs that appeared to break the will of the Crimson Tide. The first, a juggling reception down the sideline. The second, an incredible one-handed grab that kept a drive alive and earned Ross the No.1 spot on ESPN’s top 10 plays.
“The catches that you saw him make tonight, those are routine for him. I mean, it's just amazing,” Swinney said. “I told (quarterback) Trevor (Lawrence), I said, ‘could you quit throwing crappy balls so he don't have to show off like that and make some of those crazy catches?’ But that's what he can do."
• The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame on Tuesday recognized Clemson as recipient of the 2018 NFF MacArthur Bowl Championship.
• Clemson football will conduct its full celebration with fans on Saturday, Jan. 12, when the team holds its Celebration of Champions parade. More information is available at https://clemsontigers.com/parade2019/
• The National Championship Trophy presented by Dr Pepper will be on display at stores in Seneca and Central this week (Bi-Lo in Seneca from 4-7 p.m. Thursday and Walmart in Central from 4-7 p.m. Friday). Fans will be able to view and have their photo taken with the actual 24k gold trophy that was presented on the field Monday night.