Trevor Lawrence threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Clemson Tigers to a 44-16 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday night.
The win gave Clemson (15-0) the school’s second national championship in three years, and made the Tigers the first national champion to finish with a perfect record in the playoff era.
Clemson Evens Playoff Record vs. Alabama
Clemson and Alabama have met in the College Football Playoff in each of the last four years, with this being the third time the two schools have faced off for the championship. Alabama won the first meeting in 2016, while Clemson got its revenge the following year. The teams had also met in a semifinal game last year, with Alabama winning that matchup 24-6.
The fourth encounter between college football’s two most successful programs was set to be another classic. Alabama (14-1) entered the game as a 5.5-point favorite according to the FanDuel Sportsbook, and the game appeared to be living up to its billing during the first quarter.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw an interception on his first drive that was returned for a touchdown. But the Crimson Tide quickly struck back on a 62-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Jerry Jeudy. The teams would then trade touchdowns – with Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas missing the PAT on his team’s second score – to make the score 14-13 less than nine minutes into the game.
Alabama would then take the lead early in the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Bulovas. But that was the last time the Crimson Tide would put a number on the board, as Clemson put up 30 unanswered points to put the game away even before the teams played a scoreless fourth quarter.
Dabo: Clemson Among the Best Ever
After the game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said that his team should be considered amongst the best college football teams of all time. The Tigers are the first Division I or FBS school to finish with a 15-0 record since Penn accomplished that feat in 1897.
“There was a lot of talk about ‘best ever’ all year long,” Swinney said after the game. “We ever never in that conversation. But tonight, there’s no doubt.”
Clemson’s senior class leaves the school with a four-year record of 55-4, sharing the record for most wins by a single class in FBS history with the graduating seniors from Alabama.
The loss was the worst defeat for Alabama since Nick Saban took over as head coach in 2007. After the game, Saban blamed his own coaching decisions, including a failed attempt at a fake field goal early in the second half, and remarked that the result shouldn’t be the final word on this year’s Crimson Tide team.
“One game doesn’t define who you are,” Saban told reporters. “But I also told the players that sometimes we learn more when things don’t go well, when we lose.”
The result didn’t go unnoticed by bookmakers, some of whom have already set odds for the 2020 national championship. Though Alabama initially opened as the favorite at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Clemson took over the role by the time the game ended. The Tigers are now listed at +180, while Alabama is second choice at +250. The next closest contenders on the board are Ohio State and Georgia, both of which are listed at 12/1.