The Clemson Tigers took the “boom” out of the Oklahoma Sooners and then proceeded to lower it on them.
Even though the Tigers entered Thursday’s Orange Bowl and national semifinal game undefeated, the Sooners’ explosiveness over the second half of the season led some to doubt Clemson’s validity as a challenger.
It was Oklahoma that was left doubting and again raises the question of whether or not the Big 12 can ever produce a national champion again because of its heavy emphasis on offense and lack of physicality on defense. It’s a pinball league of spread offenses where the philosophy is seemingly to survive a shootout.
Clemson shredded the Sooners’ defense for a staggering 530 yards, while the vaunted Oklahoma running game spun its wheels, as it scraped together just 67 yards on 33 carries — 2 yards a pop.
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was like a wizard late in the season to inch his way into the Heisman conversation, threw for 311 yards, but was sacked five teams as even his quick feet that enabled him to elude Big 12 defenders had him diving for the nearest foxhole and in the end he was left wobbly and concussed.
I have to admit I didn’t see this coming. I was among those who wondered about Clemson’s record as the ACC isn’t the SEC, Big 12 or Big 10. Florida State isn’t what is was when Jameis Winston was there and it even lost to No. 18 Houston earlier on Thursday.
But the Tigers appeared to use the national slight as motivation as they took the game right to the Sooners. It was like hitting the big bully in the mouth, causing him to slink away. You could just see as the game went along Clemson knocking the heart and will out of the Sooners, whose coach “Not-So-Big Game Bob” Stoops came up short again.
Clemson will again have a chance to play the no-respect card on Jan. 11 as it will be an underdog to Alabama, which took apart overmatched Michigan State 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide has a lot of players who we’ll be watching soon on Sundays as this was as lopsided as a game can get. I’m sure Ohio State was stewing, as it blew its chance to play in this game by losing to Michigan State when Urban Meyer and his coaching staff had a brain cramp with a curious game plan.
Even though Alabama’s Derek Henry was merely pedestrian by his Heisman Trophy standards, Jake Coker played the game of his life, completing 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards.
Alabama figures to be a 7-point favorite in the title game as, after all, defense wins championships. If the Crimson Tide plays with the ferocity they showed on Thursday, it’ll be another national title for Nick Saban’s crew.