The 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship was the first national championship rematch in the history of college football, and it will go down in history as one of the greatest college football championship games ever. I can’t remember watching a better back and forth contest since Vince Young carried Texas to a win over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Alabama was the favorite across the board. The Crimson Tide had been in every college football playoff since the format of crowning a national champion was changed from a BCS vote to a four-team playoff in 2013. The Crimson Tide had not lost a game since it was defeated in the 2014 National Championship game by Ohio State. The 26-game winning streak was the second longest in Alabama’s rich history.
Clemson came into the game with one loss at the hands Pitt in a back and forth shootout. The Tigers edged Virginia Tech in the ACC championship 42-35 and decimated the Ohio State Buckeys in the first round of the College Football Playoff 33-0 to set up the rematch against Alabama.
Both defenses were flying to the ball and hitting the ball carrier with everything they had at the start of the game. Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough put the Crimson Tide up 14-0 with two touchdowns of 20+ yards, and it looked like Alabama was going to be running away with another title. Clemson’s quarterback and Heisman runner up Deshaun Watson had other plans, and he drove Clemson down the field with 6:09 left in the first half to cut the lead to 14-7 before halftime.
The second half was the Deshaun Watson show as the junior finished 36 of 56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns through the air along with 43 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Alabama’s freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough kept the Crimson Tide in the game by making big plays when it mattered. Hurts’ late touchdown run of 30 yards with 2:07 left in the game put Alabama up 31-28.
A solid kick return by C.J. Fuller gave the Tigers the ball at the Alabama 32 yard line. Watson got the ball with 2:01 remaining, and he needed almost all of that time. He drove his team down the field and capped off his impressive night with a 2-yard game-winning pass to Hunter Renfrow with :01 left on the clock to solidify Clemson as the 2017 College Football Playoff National Champions.
Clemson’s victory was the school’s first national title since 1981 when the Tigers beat Nebraska 22-15. Dabo Swinney notched his first national championship victory as a head coach, and Clemson improved its record in national championship games to 2-1. The loss was Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s first in a national championship game, bringing his record to an astounding 5-1.