National Championship Game Review
Alabama’s quest to repeat as national champion ended after Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson found receiver Hunter Renfrow for a 2-yard touchdown with one second remaining. The touchdown gave the Tigers a 35-31 lead and its first national championship since 1981.
Alabama jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and appeared to be in control of the game in the first half. Bo Scarbrough picked up where he left off in the Washington game and rushed for two touchdowns in the first half. The Alabama defense had several crucial stops, including on a fourth and 1 on Clemson’s first drive of the game.
However, the Tigers’ offense started to wear down the Tide in the second half. Clemson ran nearly 100 plays throughout the game, and Watson was able to get into a rhythm in the third quarter. Alabama had no answer for receiver Mike Williams, and although the Tide had a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Clemson was starting to settle in offensively.
Alabama’s was one-dimensional for most of the game. With the exception of a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts to O.J. Howard in the third quarter, the Alabama offense struggled to throw the ball for most of the game. Hurts finished the game completing only 13 of his 31 passes for 131 yards. New UA offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was forced to rely on the running game and Hurts’ mobility for most of the game. Scarbrough broke a bone in his leg in the second half, and Alabama’s offense stalled until its last drive of the game.
After Clemson took a 28-24 lead late in the fourth quarter, Alabama responded with its best drive of the night. Receiver ArDarius Stewart hit Howard on a trick play for a 24-yard gain, and Hurts capped off the drive with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes remaining.
Watson was the best player on the field, however, finishing the game 36-of-56 in passing for 420 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 43 yards and another score. The Clemson (14-1) offense wore down the Alabama defense, and the Tigers were able to avenge last year’s loss to the Tide in the national title game.
Alabama finished the season at 14-1. The loss to Clemson marked the first time that Nick Saban lost in a national championship game.
SEC Bowl Review
Twelve teams from the Southeastern Conference earned bowl bids this season, and the conference typically has the best record during bowl season. However, several teams from the conference had poor showings in their bowl outings, and the SEC finished 6-7 in its 13 games.
Mississippi State – who finished the regular season 5-7 – defeated Miami (Ohio) 17-16 after hitting a late field goal.
Georgia knocked off TCU 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl.
Tennessee had a strong finish to a disappointing season after they defeated Nebraska, 38-24.
LSU’s 29-9 domination of Louisville was the conference’s most impressive bowl win and a positive sign moving forward for the Ed Orgeron era.
A year after an ugly loss in a bowl game to Michigan, Florida thumped the Iowa Hawkeyes 30-3 to secure Jim McElwain’s first bowl win with the Gators.
Alabama’s semifinal 24-7 win over Washington gave the SEC a 13th bowl game, which was by far the most of any conference.
Vanderbilt’s promising season ended with a 41-17 blowout loss to North Carolina State in the Independence Bowl.
Texas A&M’s late-season tailspin culminated with a 33-28 loss to Kansas State. Expect plenty of hot seat discussion surrounding Kevin Sumlin heading into next season.
South Carolina’s 46-39 overtime loss to South Florida was still a promising sign for the future for the Gamecocks, especially with quarterback Jake Bentley’s development.
Arkansas led Virginia Tech 24-0 in the Belk Bowl and ended up losing 35-24. It certainly wasn’t a good look for Bret Bielema.
Mark Stoops led Kentucky to a bowl game for the first time in his tenure, but the Wildcats lost to Georgia Tech, 33-18.
Auburn led Oklahoma early but the Tiger offense fell apart after quarterback Sean White was injured in the second quarter. The Sooners won the game, 35-19.
Alabama’s loss to Clemson gave the conference a losing record for the bowl season. The ACC had the best bowl season with a 9-3 record. The Big 12 finished 4-2 and the Pac-12 finished 3-3. The Big Ten was an abysmal 3-7.
In & around SEC football
National Championship Game Review