Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, right, celebrates with the national championship trophy after beating Alabama during the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 7, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

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Keidel: Clemson Win Over Alabama Shifts The Paradigm In College Football

Tigers Beat Saban's Tide In A National Championship Laugher

Jason Keidel
January 08, 2019 - 11:14 am
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As with most physical sports, football is a game of equal parts skill, will and intimidation. Just as a boxer can win the fight before the first bell rings during the stare-down while the referee barks his instructions, we also hear about football teams winning when their hulking stars step off the bus. 

In the case of Alabama football, very few foes survive the opening exchange. Not only does the Tide's reputation precede them, so does their head coach with six national titles, his slew of five-star recruits and a gaggle of All-Americans and future NFL draft picks. 

PHOTOS: Alabama Vs. Clemson In College Football National Championship

But on Monday night, Alabama found one of two coaches not shivering at the sight of Nick Saban and his monstrous gang of ballers. One of them, Urban Meyer, just retired, leaving the smiling, silly yet quite serious Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers as the only roadblock between Alabama and a yearly run of national titles. 

If Alabama is Mike Tyson, Clemson is too good to be Buster Douglas. Perhaps its team is more Evander Holyfield -- wholly unafraid of the man across the ring, someone who sees his favored foe as an equal, not an idol. 

No matter your metaphor, there's no way to deny what Clemson did to the Crimson Tide on Monday. It was a drubbing from the second quarter until the fourth, a 44-16 laugher against a team that almost always does the laughing, a beatdown on the ultimate bullies.

Most folks thought Clemson belonged in the game but only to serve as a speed bump on Alabama's march to immortality. One of these two squads was going to become the first 15-0 college football team since Penn in 1897. And we were sure it would be Bama. Yet the Crimson Tide were whipped six ways to Saturday, outplayed and outcoached up and down the sideline. Indeed, Saban was so rattled he attempted an ugly, illogical fake field goal in the third quarter even when Clemson was showing the exact defense to defend it. 

And the stats just drip with unspeakable and unprecedented dominance. In 12 years as head coach of the Crimson Tide, Saban never lost a game by 28 points, doubling his largest margin of defeat (14) in Tuscaloosa. Alabama trailed in this game for 70 plays. Why do we care? Because the Crimson Tide had trailed in just 53 total plays all season, including the SEC title game and the national semifinal against Oklahoma. 

Alabama hung in for about 17 minutes, holding the ball for 12 of them. After one quarter, Alabama had gained 224 total yards, but managed a meager 205 yards in the second and third quarters combined. After kicking a field goal to go up 16-14, Alabama hemorrhaged 30 straight points, making this game a fait accompli with a full quarter left to play. 

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passed for 240 yards -- on third down. Lawrence became just the second true freshman starting quarterback to win a national title (joining Jamelle Holieway of Oklahoma in 1985). Lawrence tossed three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the biggest game of his life. No true freshman had beaten a Saban squad since 2007. It's a shame the 19-year-old can't declare for the NFL draft. The top five NFL teams in the upcoming draft don't' need a quarterback, leaving the Giants (No. 6) in perfect position to grab Lawrence, who may not be old enough to order a beer but has already proved he's going to be a franchise QB in the pros. 

When Clemson beat Alabama for the national championship two years ago, they did so with the mobile Deshaun Watson tossing the winning TD with one second left in the game. Then Alabama restored world order by dominating Clemson in the semifinals last year, making the prior game an aberration. But while the Tide held Clemson to six points on 188 total yards a year ago, Clemson muscled its way to 44 points on over 400 yards Monday. And consider the Tigers could have easily dropped 50 points had they not run out the clock inside Alabama's 15-yard line with two minutes left, an act of mercy on a monstrous program that rarely reciprocates any leniency. 

This is a paradigm-shifting game, leaving us to wonder if Bama just fumbled the college football crown and Clemson recovered it. This is the kind of loss that can shake a most confident man's confidence. 

After watching this game, it's hard to believe Alabama entered the game as 5 1/2 point favorites. Everything seemed to be in Bama's favor before the game. Then they played the game. When two titans play each other, perhaps we should ignore trends and stats. Consider that Saban is 6-2 in national championship games, with both losses coming to Clemson. 

Clemson entered the national championship game 7-1 against the spread as an underdog in the playoffs under Swinney, including six straight outright wins. 

Make it seven. And perhaps a new world order in college football.  

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel.