The game started slowly, but Clemson and Alabama traded TD-scoring drives, and Clemson scored the last one.
The 2017 national title game isn't going to go down in history as one of the best games ever played, but for the second year in a row, Alabama and Clemson had us guessing until the end. But this time, it was Clemson coming out on top, 35-31, scoring a touchdown with one second left to win the title.
For all the superhero-like status Alabama has gained over the past decade, Clemson proved that it was truly the only team in the country that could play with the Crimson Tide. Alabama has the best players in the country, top-to-bottom, but the Tigers proved they have players, too.
Deshaun Watson was the better of the two quarterbacks in this game, throwing for a whopping 420 yards and three touchdowns, plus running for another score. He's your offensive MVP.
Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett, Deon Cain, and Hunter Renfrow all had over 90 yards receiving. And an aggressive Clemson defense dominated one of the best offensive lines in the past decade of college football.
With a little luck and an impressive defensive performance, Clemson put together a three-quarter winning formula against Alabama that nobody else has been able to do in the past two seasons.
At the beginning of the game, it looked like this would be all Alabama, just like every other game this year. The Crimson Tide took advantage of Clemson's over pursuit and constant blitzes, using big runs and screen plays to take a 14-0 lead. But then, for the first time all year, the Crimson Tide started to wear down.
Under brand new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who took over for fired Lane Kiffin just this week, the Alabama offense stalled. Quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled to find receivers downfield, and the Crimson Tide mysteriously abandoned the run game. At one point, the Tide missed 11 straight third down conversions.
The vaunted Alabama defense—the best in the country by almost any metric—seemed fatigued for the first time all season. And the best quarterback and wide receivers Alabama has seen all year started to consistently move the ball on offense. They moved it until the game was over.
Alabama is still a dominant program, and it was probably the best team in college football this year, but Clemson put together a textbook performance against a dominant force, and they were the best team tonight.