Clemson wins Thrilling College Football Playoff
By John Dietz
Even though the College Football Playoff has only been held for three years, it has provided an exciting championship game every year so far. This year, the four teams in the playoff were chosen on December 4, 2016 by the selection committee. They ranked the top four as Alabama first, Clemson second, Ohio State third, and Washington fourth. These rankings generated controversy because many believed that Big Ten champions Penn State deserved a spot.
Washington was the only team making its first appearance in the College Football Playoff. Alabama has participated every year, winning only last year, and Ohio State and Clemson both made their second trip (Ohio State won in 2014).
All teams in the playoffs had stellar seasons. Washington lost only to USC and won the Pac-12, their conference, for the first time since 2000. Ohio State beat long-time rival Michigan in a thrilling finale to the season and lost only to Penn State. Clemson's perfect season was ruined on November 12 by Pitt. Alabama was the only undefeated team in the group, dominating every single team they faced and making them the heavy favorite.
The semifinals were played on New Year's Eve: Alabama versus Washington and Ohio State versus Clemson. Both of the semifinals were blowouts, leading fans to wonder whether the right teams were chosen. Alabama versus Washington was the closer game, with Alabama winning 24-7. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama's running back, rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including a 68-yard touchdown run.
In the other semifinal, Clemson shutout Ohio State 31-0. Deshaun Watson, Clemson’s quarterback, had 259 passing yards, the Clemson defense sacked J.T. Barrett 3 times. Clemson walked away with a decisive victory, making the final game Clemson versus Alabama on January 9, 2017, a rematch of last year's championship game.
Going into the championship, Alabama was the favorite by more than a touchdown despite Clemson's blowout victory in the semifinals. In the championship game, Alabama quickly claimed a 14-0 lead from two long Scarbrough runs. With six minutes left in the first half, Clemson's star quarterback Deshaun Watson ran the ball in for a touchdown, making it 14-7. In the third quarter, a field goal and touchdown from 'Bama and a 24-yard passing touchdown from Clemson made the score 24-14.
In the last quarter of the game, Clemson scored two touchdowns, and Alabama responded with one of their own to make it a close game at 31-28. With two minutes left in the game, Clemson drove down the field, scoring with one second left for a thrilling walk-off win. Deshaun Watson finished with 420 yards passing and 4 total touchdowns, and Alabama’s running back Scarbrough had 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. This game was an instant classic and easily the most exciting championship in the College Football Playoff era.