ON MONDAY, Clemson University’s football team gets its second shot in as many years to win the national championship. We join many other South Carolinians in hoping the Tigers succeed.
They again qualified for the four-team, major college playoff after winning 11 of 12 regular-season games and bringing home yet another Atlantic Coast Conference championship, the school’s 16th.
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On Saturday night, Clemson beat up Ohio State University, 31-0, in the national semi-finals. It was the second straight year that Clemson turned the anticipated drama of a national semi-final into a bore fit for CSPAN.
Waiting for the Tigers on Monday night will again be college football’s bully, the University of Alabama. Last year, Clemson shredded the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defense and came oh, so close to winning the title. This year, Clemson is on a mission to avenge that 45-40 loss.
It’s easy to credit much of Clemson’s success to quarterback Deshaun Watson, who we think is the nation’s best college player. During Mr. Watson’s three years as a Tiger, Clemson has lost just three of the games he started.
While Mr. Watson seems to always play well, he’s especially good in big games. For example, in last year’s championship game, he completed 30 of 47 passes for 405 yards. He also ran for 73 yards. That’s nearly 480 yards against a team that had four defensive players taken in the first two rounds of the 2016 NFL draft.
We can’t prove it, but we’re pretty sure most Bama fans were pulling for Ohio State Saturday night. They surely still have nightmares about Mr. Watson.
By all accounts, Mr. Watson has a championship character and a work ethic to match his skills. It’s gratifying to see young men like him succeed.
Unfortunately for Clemson fans — but good news for Tiger opponents — Monday night will likely be his last college game. Mr. Watson is expected to declare for this year’s NFL draft, where he will certainly be an early pick.
With the attention Mr. Watson rightfully receives, it’s easy to overlook other players. Opponents do so at their peril. Running back Wayne Gallman, receiver Mike Williams of Vance in Orangeburg County, tight end Jordan Leggett and a big, strong offensive line make Clemson’s offense one of the best — if not the best — in college.
Clemson’s defense proved Saturday night that it also is one of the nation’s best. Ohio State routinely has one of the nation’s best teams because the Buckeyes routinely recruit some of the nation’s best players. Yet, this national semi-finalist couldn’t score against the Tigers.
Leading the Tigers is head coach Dabo Swinney, whose determination has built Clemson into one of the nation’s elite football programs. He has done it without a hint of scandal and with a down-home personality that endears him to Clemson fans, the national media and many others.
Prognosticators say Alabama will present a much more difficult challenge than Ohio State or anyone else Clemson has played. The Tide’s defense is supposedly better than last year’s, and head coach Nick Saban is believed by many to be the best in the business (at least, in the college business).
The fact is that Clemson has made South Carolina proud, win or lose. Still, we’re baffled that Alabama is a 6.5-point favorite.
Surely those who bet on the Crimson Tide will be disappointed. Surely Alabama’s offense won’t keep up with Mr. Watson and company.
It’s time for Clemson to bring the national championship back to the Palmetto State.