The Clemson Tigers recently pulled off one of the most thrilling championship games in history. The Clemson Tigers played the Alabama Crimson Tide, winning the game 35-31. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson had another game for the ages against the Crimson Tide, throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns. The year before, Watson threw for over 400 yards, although Clemson lost 45-40. But it was Watson’s final touchdown, which was the final actual play of the game and the last of his career, that sealed the win for Clemson and Watson’s legacy at Clemson, too.
However, the win also has further opened the eyes of many that the playoff system was worth the implementation. It also suggested that the SEC’s dominance on the college football world is officially over. Since 2010, only one team from the SEC not named Alabama has won a championship (Auburn, 2010) and to lose one, too (Auburn, 2013). Since 2013, Florida State, Ohio State, and Clemson have all won a title. The other team that won? Alabama, in 2015.
Since 2014, the College Football Playoff has played a big equalizer in getting teams in equally without conference bias, just who passed the eye test. The BCS system before made contributing factors such as the strength of schedule, out of conference schedule, and how many ranked teams a team has played. This, in turn, made the SEC a valuable conference to receive additional praise by the media. But as the praise began happening, teams such as Clemson and Ohio State began hiring coaches and recruiting players to compete against the Alabamas of the world. Thus, in the playoff era, Clemson and Ohio State are the only two teams to successfully dethrone Alabama.
However, it all started when Clemson hired Dabo Swinney in 2008. ESPN’s Chris Low writes about the impact of Swinney’s hire.
“Phillips also remembers that meeting well, and even though the criticism only ratcheted up after Swinney lost 15 of his first 34 games, Phillips never doubted that Swinney would lead the Tigers back to football glory.
“Now, here they are as the 2016 national champions, with back-to-back 14-win seasons, and Swinney owns two postseason wins over Oklahoma, two postseason wins over Ohio State and a postseason win over both Alabama and LSU.
“While this is the same school, it’s hardly the same program. Clemson had gone two decades without a conference title or a 10-win season before Phillips made his controversial decision to promote a guy who was seen by many as more of a cheerleader than a coach.
“Swinney has built a program to last, one that is the envy of schools all across the country. And the guy whose nerves won’t even allow him to watch the games live is the one who so brazenly and assuredly tabbed an unknown receivers coach eight years ago to bring Clemson back into the light.”
Clemson’s win last night is not only monumental toward their program but also toward the changing shift in college football as a whole. Programs are hiring and recruiting at an accelerated rate, and Clemson should be shown as a benchmark of what to do and how to do it. For Alabama, disappointment should be expressed, as they were lauded as one of the greatest teams ever, a potential first 15-0 team that will now be forgotten in history. Just as the 2016 Golden State Warriors, 2005 USC Trojans, and 2007 New England Patriots, the 2016 Crimson Tide will have to worry about what they could have done. Meanwhile, Clemson will enjoy their first National title in 35 years, one that Clemson deserves.
[Featured image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]