Dabo's Top-10 wins: Tigers rout Alabama and Nick Saban in National Championship
|Monday, July 1, 2019, 7:13 AM-|
A decade (plus some) of Dabo Swinney has produced some of the Clemson’s program biggest wins, two National Championships, four appearances in the College Football Playoff, and the ascension of the brand into one of the nation’s most recognizable.
It has also seen the program turned into one of the nation’s top two programs and arguably the nation’s top program at this point.
Swinney is 116-30 (.795) in 11 seasons (10 full seasons) at Clemson, including a 69-16 mark (.812) in ACC regular-season games at Clemson. Swinney is also 5-1 (.833) in ACC Championship Games and 9-5 (.643) in bowl games.
We decided to take a look at the 10 biggest wins during the Swinney era – biggest from a perspective of what the win meant to the program and on the national stage. We will take a look at the ten we’ve chosen over the next few weeks, and feel free to disagree with us. David Hood, Brandon Rink, and Nikki Hood also disagreed on the ten and where each game should rank.
Today we take a look at No. 6.
CLEMSON 44, ALABAMA 16, JANUARY 7, 2019
Why it made the list
If you want to be considered a national football power you need to win multiple titles in a short period of time and you need to beat Alabama to do it.
The Crimson Tide have had a stranglehold on the top echelon of college football since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, but the Tigers took Bama to the wire in 2015 and defeated them in 2016 to win Clemson’s first National Championship since 1981.
Alabama cruised through the 2018 season, destroying anything and everything in its path on the way back to the College Football Playoff. The Tide finished the regular season 12-0, escaped Georgia in the SEC title game and beat Oklahoma in the semifinal. There were whispers that this Alabama team could be the “best ever.” Especially if they finished 15-0.
Meanwhile, Clemson put up similar numbers on its way to 14-0, but many in the national media once again dismissed the Tigers as a threat to Bama. Someone forgot to tell the Tigers, who ran around, over, and through Alabama on the way to the 28-point win.
The win established Clemson as one of the top two programs in the country, if not the top program, and was Swinney’s second championship in just three seasons, with both wins coming against the Tide.
Why does it make the list? The way the Tigers won in dominant fashion. The second National Championship in three seasons. The third overall for the school. And, it sealed Clemson’s spot among the national elite, a program with staying power.
It was the fourth straight College Football Playoff meeting between these programs, which is important. And it shocked the nation. It makes the list because of the talent Clemson rolled out to execute it. It makes the list because of who it came against.
And it makes the list because so many of those same characters that rolled the Tide are back to do it again.
The Tigers also became the first team in the modern era to go 15-0 in a season.
Play of the game
There are so many plays to choose from, but AJ Terrell’s pick-six on the game’s opening drive rattled Tua Tagavailoa and the Alabama offense.
Terrell gave his team an early lead when he intercepted Tagovailoa for a touchdown on the Crimson Tide's first drive. Terrell took the 44-yard run into the end zone for the Tigers. The drive was capped off with an extra point to give Clemson a 7–0 lead to start their quest for a national title with 13:20 left in the first quarter.
It set the tone for the entire game.
Stat of the game
Most of the stats from this game are fairly even. Clemson led in some categories and Alabama led in others. One could say that Alabama’s two turnovers were the story of the game, and there’s no doubt that they played a critical part. But the stat of the game, to us, came on third and fourth down.
The Tigers were 10-15 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down in the game. The Crimson Tide was 4-13 on third down and just 3-6 on fourth down. Tua Tagavailoa was stopped twice on fourth down to end drives, and Saban showed his desperation by going for a fake field goal in the third quarter. It was stopped well short of the line of scrimmage and the entire stadium knew something special was in the air.