Clemson post-Deshaun Watson no match for Alabama at Allstate Sugar Bowl
What we learned more than anything else from the Allstate Sugar Bowl is just how good Deshaun Watson is. NFL defenses were discovering this before Watson got injured this season.
To beat Alabama, you must have a quarterback who is a superior athlete, can extend plays and can throw it well. Watson checked all of the boxes.
Kelly Bryant is a good athlete but not that guy, otherwise. He had very good numbers coming into the game but he had not faced a defense like Alabama, not even close. The fact that he lost a key receiver in Tee Higgins in the first half did not help.
Hunter Renfrow, a hero in the last two national championship games for Clemson, did not catch a pass until early in the fourth quarter.
Watson watched from the Clemson sideline, helplessly hoping for the best but knowing in his heart and mind that the worst would likely occur against a dominating Alabama defense.
Alabama whipped Clemson up front. The Crimson Tide simply dominated the line-of-scrimmage, especially with their defensive front seven, recording five sacks and totally shutting down the run. They intercepted Bryant twice.
Jalen Hurts made the necessary plays, despite missing some along the way. He is still not a very accurate passer and does not see the field as well as he can but he avoided mistakes and, as always, made plays with his feet while extending other plays. That is where he is at his best and always will be.
Da’Ron Payne singlehandedly put Alabama in the championship game by turning, if you’ll pardon the pun, the “tide” of the game. First, he picked off a Kelly Bryant pass to kill a Clemson possession when the Tigers were in field goal range, trailing only 10-6 in the third quarter.
Then, Payne lined up at fullback, leaked out of the backfield and caught a touchdown pass from Hurts on a play where offensive interference should have been called on a clear block being thrown to shield defenders from Payne by Quinnen Williams.
The conspiracy theorists who feel Nick Saban and Alabama get all of the calls were howling about that one.
The fact of the matter is that Alabama was simply too good.
Jeremy Pruitt departs to become the head coach at Tennessee on a very high note. He dialed up a perfect defense against the Clemson offense and his players executed it perfectly.
With regard to the national championship game, simply put, it will be the Georgia offense against the Alabama defense next Monday night in Atlanta. Something has to give.
The Bulldogs run the ball better than anyone in the country. Their freshman quarterback is poised and can makes necessary throws.
The Crimson Tide defense, despite missing some linebackers, is stout, refreshed, fast and physical. How good is this defense? Since 2015, Alabama has scored 17 defensive touchdowns, the most in the FBS over that period of time.
The Alabama offense was a bit pedestrian, putting up a modest 259 yards. It did not need to be any better on this night but may have to be better next week.
Alabama may have lost right guard Lester Cotton, who got rolled up on the back of his leg late in the third quarter. That could be important heading into the game with Georgia. They may have lost linebacker Anfernee Jennings late in the game as well, who went down with a left leg injury.
The Rose Bowl game was as good as any college football game I have ever seen, if not the best. The 2006 Rose Bowl, in which Vince Young rallied Texas to a 41-38 victory over USC for the national championship, was the only other game I would possibly consider to be better.
It would have been impossible for the Sugar Bowl to measure up after that instant classic.
The predictable cries about Alabama being in the playoff were certain to come. Danny Kanell was the biggest whiner of all. While I respect all opinions and understand that the Crimson Tide did not play for a conference title or win a conference title, they lost once, to a good (not great) Auburn team. On the road. Against it’s biggest rival.
Ohio State gave up 55 points to Iowa. The Buckeyes lost at home by 15 points to Oklahoma, the same Oklahoma team that lost to Georgia. I know Ohio State played a tougher schedule but with all due respect, the decision makers got the final four right. Alabama showed that it belonged with its performance.
While the game was not very compelling, the crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was superb, as was the defense played by Alabama.
It will be the teacher against the pupil in Atlanta next Monday night when Nick Saban opposes Kirby Smart, who coached with Saban from 2007-2015 at Alabama.
Georgia had a good, successful head coach in Mark Richt, who went 145-51 in 15 seasons with the Bulldogs. He could never get Georgia to a national championship game. Georgia made a bold move to let Richt go and to hire Smart with the idea that the Saban disciple could get the Bulldogs over the hump. He has done just that. Now, he has a chance to topple the best.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…