The final whistle blew, the confetti went in the air before making a slow descent to litter the field, and the 2015-2016 college football season is finished. What a game. The second season of the College Football Playoff era gave us two horrible semi-final games to endure the agony of watching. We did though so we would find out which two teams would play for the National Championship.
On New Year’s Eve in the first semi-final game, the ACC champion Clemson Tigers became the first team to advance. They beat a Big XII champion Oklahoma Sooners team ranked fourth at the time 37-17 in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Clemson spent most of the season atop the rankings and held the top spot in each Playoff Ranking. Oklahoma went into the game as the favorite, but Clemson showed why they were deserving of the No. 1 ranking.
A few hours later we learned who Clemson would meet in the National Championship game. The Alabama Crimson Tide, champions of the SEC rolled over B1G champions Michigan State. The Tide embarrassed Sparty 38-0 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Alabama stayed a steady second in each Playoff Ranking. This set the stage for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T from the University of Phoenix Stadium Monday night January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.
I didn’t have a team to cheer. I wanted to cheer for the game. Yes, you read that right. After those semi-final fiascoes that weren’t competitive, I wanted this game to be a GAME. I wanted the 15 round heavyweight slugfest. The main event cage match with both wrestlers battered and bloody fighting for the world title. I wanted the last game of the year to be what it should be, the best game of the year between the two best teams who earned the right to be there. To sum it up, I wanted this game to be a winner, and make us winners for watching. It did, and we are. This game delivered the goods in every way possible.
Clemson and Alabama played one of the best bowl games of the year. I still think the best of the lot was the Alamo Bowl. This was one of the best National Championship games I’ve ever seen. We have to go back to the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas to find one as close and with as much drama. I hope we don’t have to wait a decade for the next one. This is what National Championship games should look like every year.
At the half the score stood at 14 points apiece. Both offenses looked strong, yet faltered at key times. The defenses looked weak in giving up big plays, but had drives where they looked dominant. Special teams is an underlooked and undervalued aspect of football. Throw the stats away. Alabama’s 45-40 victory came on two spectacular special teams plays, both in the fourth quarter.
The score was 24 all with 10:34 left in the game. Alabama had tied the game and was ready to kick off to Clemson. Tide head coach Nick Saban ordered an onside kick attempt to give his team life and allow his defense to rest longer. They recovered the ball at midfield and would soon take the lead back. Jake Coker caught the Tigers defense out of position on a 51 yard touchdown pass to a wide open O.J. Howard. That made the score 31-24 with 9:45 left. Clemson charged back and added a field goal to cut the lead to four points. On the ensuing Clemson kickoff Kenyan Drake went 95 yards for a touchdown, the final five through the air reaching for the goal line. Both quarterbacks had huge stat lines, as did Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, and O.J. Howard. The two special teams plays won the game.
The 2015-2016 season was an odd one. There wasn’t a clear cut favorite team to win it all or player who would run away with the Heisman. It was a race to the finish for both, and Alabama won for the fourth time in seven seasons and had their second Heisman winner. Both these teams should be highly ranked and favored going into the 2016 season. ESPN has already released an unofficial poll, 2016 Way-Too-Early Top 25. Here’s how it looks:
25. Washington Huskies (7-6)
24. Louisville Cardinals (8-5)
23. Georgia Bulldogs (10-3)
22. Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-3)
21. UCLA Bruins (8-5)
20. Washington State Cougars (9-4)
19. TCU Horned Frogs (11-2)
18. Oregon Ducks (9-4)
17. North Carolina Tar Heels (11-3)
16. Iowa Hawkeyes (12-2)
15. USC Trojans (8-6)
14. Michigan State Spartans (12-2)
13. Ole Miss Rebels (10-3)
12. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)
11. Tennessee Volunteers (9-4)
10. Houston Cougars (13-1)
9. Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish (10-3)
8. Stanford Cardinal (12-2)
7. LSU Tigers (9-3)
6. Florida State Seminoles (10-3)
5. Oklahoma Sooners (11-2)
4. Michigan Wolverines (10-3)
3. Baylor Bears (10-3)
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (14-1)
1. Clemson Tigers (14-1)
Copyright © Drew Martin 2016