For those keeping score, the basketball league has won two of the past four college football championships. The SEC has won one. The ACC was 9-3 in bowl/playoff games this season. The SEC was 6-7. The ACC produced the Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up. Florida State, which beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl, figures to be picked no worse than No. 2 in preseason rankings for 2017.
Back to Dabo, who like his players was bleary-eyed Tuesday morning — “I feel like crap,” defensive MVP Ben Boulware allowed — but still talking to beat the band. In the span of 10 days, his Tigers toppled teams coached by Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, who have eight national championships between them.
Five years ago, we’d have laughed out loud if anyone jammed those three into the same sentence. But here Dabo stands, on the top of what he called his mountain, and he’s not apt to fall off it soon.
Said Watson: “We all know that Clemson is only going to get better. You think this is the best of Clemson, just wait (until) the next five years. It’s going to be even more exciting, more awesome.”
There’s every chance that Alabama, which came within two seconds of a fifth championship in eight years, will win the title at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 8, 2018. (Especially since Saban won’t lose precious recruiting time to anything goofy like a championship parade.) Bama under Saban is never going away, but this Bama wasn’t quite ready for Clemson, which sounds strange until you note that the Crimson Tide marched through the SEC without trailing in a fourth quarter.
For as hard as the rest of the SEC keeps chasing Saban, no one is gaining. Indeed, the league as an entity has receded. Who was the conference’s second-best team? Florida, which lost four games by an aggregate 88 points? Auburn, which lost five games? LSU, which fired its coach in September? Didn’t it say something that Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, the freshman quarterback who completed 44.4 percent of his playoff passes, was the SEC’s offensive player of the year?
The ACC had Watson and Lamar Jackson, Dalvin Cook and Mike Williams, James Conner and Mitch Trubisky. The ACC had better offensive players than the SEC, and better offensive coaches — Jimbo, Petrino and Fedora, not to mention the guy at Georgia Tech and the guy at Miami who used to be at Georgia. “I told the guys that this would be no upset,” Dabo said afterward, and it wasn’t. The better team won.
It was the right result, and a sweet one, too. The winning touchdown pass at 0:01 was delivered by Watson, a five-star recruit, and snagged by Hunter Renfrow, a scrawny former walk-on who, Dabo conceded, wouldn’t stick out in a lineup of Clemson managers. “The epitome of our team,” he called it, and it will stand forever as the signature of a champion.