Like It Is:

Clemson whips softer side out of Saban

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Alabama head coach Nick Saban reacts after the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Clemson, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. Clemson beat Alabama 44-16. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban reacts after the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Clemson, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. Clemson beat Alabama 44-16. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Alabama is the only team to play in all five College Football Playoffs, and the Crimson Tide are the only team to win two and lose two championship games.

But on Monday night, in front of the nation, they looked more like Notre Dame than Alabama.

They couldn’t block the Clemson defensive line. They didn’t open holes for running backs. They didn’t have an answer for Clemson’s true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

They did record the worst loss in a CFP championship game, 44-16, which is a four-touchdown difference.

The thrashing was so bad Nick Saban told the media this:

“As always I appreciate … I know y’all think I don’t like the press, but I really do love you for what you do. To give a lot of positive self-gratification to a lot of our players by recognizing the things they do well. We certainly appreciate all the interest you create for our sport.”

This is the same coach who once claimed he didn’t read anything the media writes. He’s a coach who snaps at reporters and dismisses them with an arrogant turn of his head.

A guess here is Saban was trying to twist the narrative on the worst Alabama loss in 20 years as to not hurt recruiting.

He might as well have asked the media to not mention he was outcoached. He was.

His players were outplayed. They were.

That the best team won. It did.

When the Crimson Tide went ahead 16-14 early in the second quarter, the thought was here they go.

That lead lasted 2:40. That’s how long it took the Tigers to drive 65 yards in six plays to regain the lead and never look back.

Clemson would score 10 more points and lead at the half 31-16. It got worse for Alabama, which was shut out in the second half while the Tigers added 13 third-quarter points.

The ACC has replaced the SEC as the best football conference in the country.

The ACC finished 6-5 in bowl games, the SEC 6-6, and the tiebreaker was Monday night when Clemson dominated the line of scrimmage and the entire second half, especially the final quarter when the Tigers were on the field for 11:07.

Saban and the Tide were so desperate for points they went for it six times on fourth down, and even though they converted three they only got in the red zone four times and scored twice. They converted only four of 13 third downs, while Clemson was 10 of 15 and scored on five of six possessions in the red zone.

Clemson’s offensive line did not give up a sack.

The first quarter was fun. It looked like it was going to be a high-scoring, entertaining contest between the two best teams in America. By the time it was over, some critics probably were saying Alabama didn’t belong in the playoffs.

Of course, most of the nation has grown tired of Saban’s habit of winning, especially six national championships. Football fans around the country are weary of hearing about the SEC.

Monday night was all ACC.

It couldn’t have been sweeter for Dabo Swinney, a former Tide player. When Terry Don Phillips — the retired Clemson AD, and former University of Arkansas assistant AD and Razorback football player — hired Swinney in 2008, both were heavily criticized. It didn’t get better until 2011 when a new offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, was hired.

The Tigers still run the offense Morris installed, and Swinney is 96-15 since hiring Morris, but it was domination on both sides of the ball by the better team that won the championship, leaving an apparently shellshocked Saban to say he loves the media.

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