It’s always best to evaluate things after some measure of thought. Twenty-four hours should suffice, when the immediate reaction of whatever you’re having a feeling on has completely worn off and some degree of common sense should have set in. The key word there being, “should.” So here we go, five thoughts on what was a worthy end to the 2015-16 season last night that ended with the Alabama Crimson Tide as champions of college football one more time.
5. The CFB Playoff got what it needed and we all wanted … which was a good game
Going in, the only real hope for the game was that it was worth the watch. Up until last night, CFB Playoff games hadn’t been the most competitive of the sort. There has been no gnashing of teeth, nail chewing, or hair pulling late in the contets. We got a good one Monday night, a game where throughout it, the feeling was that either team could and would win. Going in, the general feeling was that Deshaun Watson had to have a virtuoso performance for Clemson to have a shot at winning, something to the tune of a Vince Young, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel type of game at their best. He had one of those, and it made for an elite watch. Alabama really didn’t put it on ice until a great juke for two yards by Jacob Coker inside the Clemson 5-yard-line with time winding down. The defense was a little sketchy on both sides, much sketchier than anyone anticipated, but that’s what people like. There would have been, “eh, it was interesting until the end but not well-played” if the final score was 15-10 with one turnover instead of 45-40, but such is the world we live in. Once again, without question, college football got its two best teams on its biggest stage (the ultimate goal, right?) and this time, it delivered a highly entertaining game, a great springboard into next year’s season and playoff.
4. Deshaun Watson showed he’s the best individual player in college football
With all due respect to Derrick Henry, who is an unbelievable talent that turns heads like Mila Kunis grocery shopping at your local WalMart in a bikini would be … Watson, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in my opinion because people didn’t watch as much Clemson as they did Alabama … showed he was the best player in the game this season. His 73 yards rushing was one fewer than the average Alabama had allowed this season … to all teams on their schedule. His 478 yards were more than Alabama had allowed all season … to any TEAM. Seven opponents didn’t get to his individual rushing total. That’s an incredible night. In all honesty, it was the best performance on such a large stage since Young against USC and the year previous against Michigan. The kicker will now be how Watson handles the immense expectations going into next year. Something tells me he has the right noggin on his shoulders for the task.
3. Lane Kiffin was exceptional last night, and it’s okay to like him even though he’s failed at a few jobs and has a pretty wife
For whatever reason, people don’t want to like Lane Kiffin. There’s a longer point here, one about people generally not liking young, decent looking, successful people with everything going for them, but for now, we’ll stick to football stuff. Kiffin has failed in a couple stops, but he also wasn’t in the best of positions in a few of them, and what was he supposed to do when offered an interview and a job, say, “nope, I’m not ready for a promotion and a pay hike. Pass.”? Kiffin’s play calling clearly spooked Clemson, routinely getting tight end O.J. Howard in wide open spaces (cue Dixie Chicks music) which is a tell-tale sign that the defense flat out didn’t plan for or expect those plays. The brakes should probably be tapped slightly on him getting a head coaching job quick, fast, and in a hurry, because there’s clearly more room to learn all of the time and in any situation. But give Kiffin his due. He was arguably the MVP of last night’s game.
2. Nick Saban’s coaching brilliance on display no more at any point recently than on the onside kick
You ask people what makes a truly great game coach, it’s be interesting to hear the responses. Many people go to the old fail safe of “X’s and O’s,” or make a big deal out of schematics. The truth is, the X’s and O’s don’t change, and they’re available for everyone. Greatness in coaching comes from that little itchy feeling you get in games or moments that tells you that you need to do something game-altering, coaching by “feel,” as it were. Saban pretty much admitted that in his post game interview regarding the second half onside kick that altered the course of how we feel about the game. He noted the defense being tired and just needing a play, which is what that ended up being. A lot of the credit Saban gets is because he’s a tireless worker, brilliant tactician, and has a bloodless approach to winning. The truth is, maybe the greatest element of guys like Saban is their ability to feel the game as it happens, and it probably was the key cog in winning a championship last night.
1. Sometimes it’s players, sometimes it’s coaching … and last night, it was coaching
There’s no defined formula for winning games, yet when the end result is salted away, we attach narratives to it that were penned in regardless of nuance just based on how it turned out. If the wide receiver makes a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone to win a game, the team and the coach get the spoils. If he drops it, everything is combed over and the failure is flogged possession by possession. Sometimes, it really is about guys making plays. Sometimes, it really is about coaching. Monday night, it was about coaching. As already aforementioned, Saban and Kiffin were at their mist elite both mentally and schematically. Kiffin’s call of a Coker roll out when they absolutely HAD to have a first down to put the game away was brilliant, even though Clemson defended it as well as could be asked. Most everyone in the building had Henry getting the ball, not putting the win or loss in Coker’s hands. Too often, Clemson took bad angles on runners (most notably on the last Howard catch on Alabama’s final drive) and were fooled by Crimson Tide players in open spaces just dying for a football their way. It’s not a knock on Clemson, a well-coached team who earned their way there, but this second CFB Playoff championship was decided by the minds on the sidelines as much as anything. Sometimes, it’s players, and it looks obvious at times when it is. Sometimes, it’s coaching, and this game was what it looks like when it is.
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