2017 NCAA National Championship

Clemson Tigers vs Alabama Crimson Tide Recap

In a back and forth battle of college football’s best teams, Deshaun Watson and his No. 2 Clemson Tigers threw the final knockout punch. Watson found Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning, 2-yard touchdown with one second to play on Monday night as Clemson beat the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 NCAA National Championship in Tampa, Florida.

Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another score. Clemson (14-1) took its first lead of the game at 28-24 on Wayne Gallman’s 1-yard run with 4:38 to play in the game. But no sooner had Watson and Gallman rallied Clemson back from a two-touchdown first-half deficit than Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts answered. Hurts weaved through Clemson defenders to score on a 30-yard keeper that gave the Crimson Tide (14-1) a 31-28 lead with 2:07 to play. Then, it was Watson’s turn again. Watson told ESPN after the game that he told his teammates before the final drive not to panic, and “let’s go finish it.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says there should have been a foul called on the Tigers’ game-winning touchdown against Alabama, and it should have been called on the Crimson Tide. A year after Watson and his Tigers came up short in a 45-40 championship loss to Alabama, they did finish it. Watson made clutch throws to Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett during the Tigers’ final drive, and then with six seconds left, he threw to the right side of the end zone and found Renfrow. Clemson entered the fourth quarter trailing 24-14 but scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes for the victory. The Tigers’ only other national title came in 1981.

Alabama, which was denied its fifth national title in eight years, controlled the game early with Bo Scarbrough scoring touchdowns on runs of 25 and 37 yards. But he left the game with an apparent leg injury late in the third quarter, and the Crimson Tide could have used his powerful running in the fourth. Watson scored on a keeper midway through the second quarter to cut Alabama’s 14-0 lead in half. A Clemson fumble on the Tigers’ opening possession of the second half, however, led to a Crimson Tide field goal to make it 17-7.

Midway through the third quarter, Watson found Renfrow over the middle for a 24-yard scoring pass to pull the Tigers to within 17-14. O.J. Howard, one of the Alabama heroes in last year’s championship game, burned the Tigers again late in the third quarter on a 68-yard TD catch that put Alabama back up by 10 at 24-14. Clemson answered with a scoring pass from Watson to Williams early in the fourth quarter that cut the Tide’s lead to 24-21. Then Gallman’s run gave Clemson its first lead of the game and set the stage for a wild final few minutes.

Final: Clemson 35, Alabama 31

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2017 CFP National Championship

Clemson Tigers vs Alabama Crimson Tide Preview

Top-seeded Alabama looks to claim its fifth national title in 10 seasons under Nick Saban when it battles second-seeded Clemson in Monday’s CFP National Championship (Enter contest) at Tampa, Florida. It is a rematch of last season’s title game in which the Crimson Tide prevailed 45-40 despite a huge game by Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (405 yards passing, 73 rushing). Alabama is attempting to record its 27th consecutive victory while Clemson is pursuing its second national title and first since 1981.

Watson passed for 259 yards and one touchdown while adding two rushing scores in Clemson’s 31-0 rout of Ohio State in the semifinals, and he has a major advantage in experience over counterpart Jalen Hurts. Watson, who finished second in this season’s Heisman Trophy balloting and third in 2015, has passed for 4,173 yards and 38 touchdowns this campaign but also is prone to miscues, as evidenced by his 17 interceptions. Hurts has accounted for 34 scores (22 passing, 12 rushing) and is aiming to join Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway (1985) as the only true freshman quarterbacks to lead a team to a national title, but he passed for only 57 yards in the Crimson Tide’s 24-7 semifinal victory over Washington.

Alabama made the odd move of separating itself from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin after the win over Washington, as the new Florida Atlantic coach became a distraction while attempting to juggle two jobs. Saban was highly disappointed with the offensive showing against the Huskies and promoted offensive analyst Steve Sarkisian to offensive coordinator, insisting it will be a smooth transition.

ABOUT CLEMSON (13-1)

Watson threw three or more touchdown passes on seven occasions and topped 300 yards six times while fueling a powerful offense that averaged 39.5 points and scored over 40 seven times. Juniors Mike Williams (90 receptions, 1,267 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Artavis Scott (73 catches) form a potent one-two receiving combo. Junior running back Wayne Gallman rushed for 1,087 yards and 16 scores. The Tigers’ defense allows averages of 17.1 points and 306.9 yards per game but features weak-side linebacker Ben Boulware (team-best 121 tackles), defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (team-high 10.5 sacks) and strong safety Jadar Johnson (team-leading five interceptions). They are all seniors.

ABOUT ALABAMA (14-0)

Bo Scarbrough is the squad’s third-leading rusher (719 yards) behind fellow sophomore Damien Harris (1,013) and Hurts (891), but he’ll play a major role after rushing for two touchdowns and a Crimson Tide bowl-record 180 yards against Washington. Clemson’s defense certainly will be paying close attention to senior tight end O.J. Howard (41 catches, 489 yards, two touchdowns) after he made five catches for a career-best 208 yards and two TDs while winning Offensive MVP honors in last year’s national title game. Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen (9.5 sacks, two fumble-return scores) won the Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player and, along with sophomore strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (team-best six interceptions), is among the standouts for a unit that scored 11 defensive touchdowns (six interceptions, five fumbles) and leads the nation in both scoring defense (11.4 points per game) and total defense (244 yards).

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs LSU Tigers Preview

Top-ranked Alabama is soaring toward the College Football Playoff and seeks its 21st consecutive victory when it visits No. 13 LSU on Saturday (Enter Contest). The Crimson Tide are also atop the first CFP poll of the season but will have to overcome the loss of senior star safety Eddie Jackson (broken leg) down the stretch. The team has scored a stunning 12 non-offensive touchdowns (nine on defense, three on punt returns) during its dominating campaign but is certainly wary of the Tigers, who are 3-0 since interim coach Ed Orgeron replaced Les Miles. It’s something that Nick Saban’s made clear his squad won’t be overlooking this weekend.

ABOUT ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0 SEC)

Jackson has scored three of the Crimson Tide’s 12 non-offensive touchdowns. Losing his 23.0 average on punt returns will cost the squad some of the field-position advantages it has enjoyed. The defense’s other major star are still around though. Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen has six sacks to raise his career total to 24, one behind second-place Kindal Moorehead (1998-2002) on Alabama’s all-time list. The Crimson Tide have forced 16 turnovers this season with nine resulting in defensive touchdowns.

Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has accounted for 20 touchdowns (11 passing, nine rushing) this season. Sophomore running back Damien Harris has a team-leading 697 rushing yards and sophomore wideout Calvin Ridley has 43 receptions for 504 yards and five scores. Alabama has won the past five meetings, holding a 50-25-2 series edge.

ABOUT LSU (5-2, 3-1)

LSU junior running back Leonard Fournette is back on his game after dealing with an ankle injury earlier this season. He’s set a school record with 284 rushing yards in a victory over Ole Miss on week 8. Fournette has rushed for 670 yards and five touchdowns despite a three-game absence. He hasn’t forgotten that his 2015 Heisman hopes were squashed against the Crimson Tide when he had just 31 yards on 19 carries. The Tigers are 15-4 when Fournette rushes for 100 yards and 5-0 when he tops 200.

Sophomore Derrius Grice is also running well with 621 yards and seven scores while junior quarterback Danny Etling has thrown for 1,129 yards and seven touchdowns against three interceptions. The Tigers are allowing 15 points per game, which ranks fifth nationally. Thanks in large part to sophomore outside linebacker Arden Key (team-high eight sacks) and senior middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith (team-leading 69 tackles) who are enjoying solid campaigns.

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Texas A&M (6-0) vs Alabama (7-0)

Even the tougher opponents are finding it hard to compete with top-ranked Alabama, which looks for its 12th straight victory over ranked programs when it hosts No. 6 Texas A&M in Saturday’s SEC showdown (Enter Games of the Week Contests). The Crimson Tide are looking for their 20th consecutive overall win and are coming off a complete dismantling of then-No. 11 Tennessee as they delivered a 49-10 shellacking. Alabama has scored an amazing 11 non-offensive touchdowns (eight on defense, three on punt returns). Unbeaten Texas A&M is Alabama’s lone remaining challenger in the SEC West.

ABOUT TEXAS A&M

The Aggies lead the SEC in total offense (532.8 yards per game) and rushing offense (274.3) and will be trying to penetrate an Alabama unit that leads the nation in rushing defense (69.2) and allows just 2.2 yards per carry. Standout freshman running back Trayveon Williams (SEC-leading 704 rushing yards, five touchdowns) has been superb with an 8.6 average per carry while senior quarterback Travis Knight has been effective as both a runner (502 yards, nine scores) and a passer (1,500 yards, nine touchdowns). Junior defensive end Myles Garrett (28 career sacks, team-leading four this season) is getting closer to full strength from an ankle injury and senior strong safety Justin Evans leads Texas A&M with 48 tackles and three interceptions. Aggies sophomore WR Christian Kirk leads the SEC with 40 receptions but is averaging just 8.8 yards per catch.

ABOUT ALABAMA

Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has become a big-time star and has accounted for 17 touchdowns (nine passing, eight rushing) while passing for 1,385 yards and rushing for 428. Sophomore running back Damien Harris (572 yards) averages an impressive 8.3 yards per carry while sophomore wideout Calvin Ridley has 39 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns. Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen has five sacks to raise his career total to 23, two behind second-place Kindal Moorehead (1998-2002) on the Crimson Tide’s all-time list while senior safety Eddie Jackson has a superb 25.8 punt-return average and has scored three total touchdowns (two on punt returns, one on an interception).

Alabama holds a 6-2 series edge after posting a 41-23 road victory last season. The Crimson Tide had three interception-return touchdowns in last year’s win over Texas A&M. Two of them came from now-sophomore cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and the other one came from Jackson.

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Saturday’s College Featured Matchup

CFB September 17, 2016

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#2 Florida State (2-0) vs #10 Louisville (2-0)

Lamar Jackson has compiled 1,015 yards of total offense and accounted for 13 touchdowns in less than two full games for Louisville, so it goes without saying Florida State wouldn’t mind having all hands on deck defensively. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case for the second-ranked Seminoles.

Preseason All-American sophomore safety Derwin James suffered a cartilage tear in his left knee against FCS foe Charleston Southern last weekend. He will be sidelined indefinitely. Although the Seminoles will be shorthanded defensively, they should have more than enough firepower on the other side of the ball to stick with FBS’ highest-scoring team thus far, as running back Dalvin Cook has already accounted for 284 total yards and two touchdowns in limited action. While Cook has done nothing to hurt his campaign for the Heisman Trophy, Jackson has raced out to an early lead in that regard by ranking third in the country in rushing (318 yards) and eighth in passing (697) while leading Louisville to an average of 66 points in routs over Charlotte and Syracuse.

#25 Miami (2-0) vs Appalachian State (1-1)

After two one-sided victories, No. 25 Miami faces its first true test Saturday against a dangerous Appalachian State team in what is sure to be a hostile environment.  The Hurricanes have shown signs of being ready for such a test, having dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. After depending on junior Brad Kaaya’s arm to carry the offense for two seasons, the Hurricanes are averaging 326 yards a game rushing while the defense has allowed only 34.5 yards on the ground to rank first in the nation despite starting a front seven dominated by freshmen and sophomores. Those young guys will face a big test against the Mountaineers, who are run-first team and feature one the nation’s best running backs in senior Marcus Cox, who entered the season with 4,088 yards rushing and has added 248 yards already this season.

#22 Oregan (2-0) vs Nebraska (2-0)

Mike Riley watched his Oregon State teams drop seven straight “Civil War” games to Oregon before he bolted for Nebraska in December of 2014. It should come as no surprise if the usually mild-mannered coach is a bit more amped up this week. He will get his chance to end his frustration against a familiar foe Saturday when his Cornhuskers host the 22nd-ranked Ducks in the first meeting between the schools in nearly 30 years.

Oregon have been solid starters, enjoying a plus-42 margin before the halftime break only to outscore their foes by one point over the final 30 minutes in its two home triumphs. Although they are sporting their usual offensive proficiency (eighth in FBS in total offense, tied for 14th in scoring offense), the Ducks are ranked 80th in scoring defense and 82nd in total defense despite playing a FCS opponent (UC Davis) and a struggling FBS squad (Virginia).

#1 Alabama (2-0) vs #19 Ole Miss (1-1)

Ole Miss sets its sights on knocking off top-ranked Alabama for the third consecutive season when the No. 19 Rebels host the defending national champions in the SEC opener for both teams. Crimson Tide Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts still hasn’t been declared the starting quarterback over redshirt freshman Blake Barnett but it is heading in that direction after Hurts passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s victory over Western Kentucky. While it’s unclear who will start at quarterback for Alabama, the same can’t be said for Ole Miss. Senior quarterback Chad Kelly passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns while fueling last season’s win at Alabama and he has thrown for 532 yards and seven touchdowns in this season’s first two games.

Pittsburgh (2-0) vs Oklahoma State (1-1)

After one of the most bizarre finishes in college football history, Oklahoma State need to return their focus to the football field this week. The previously 17th-ranked squad cannot afford to falter against Pittsburgh. The Cowboys most recent contest turned ugly for them after a misinterpreted rule extended the game. One untimed down allowed the Chippewas to score the winning touchdown on a Hail Mary and lateral. Mike Gundy’s squad tried to kill the final four seconds of the game by throwing the ball away on fourth down with time expired, but they were incorrectly penalized for intentional grounding, setting up the 51-yard play. Pittsburgh is seeking to boost its top-25 credentials by starting 3-0 for just the fourth time since 2000.

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