09-Jan-17 Alabama 31 Clemson 35 Tampa FLMy heart sank in the fourth quarter of the Alabama-Clemson game as I watched all that the Tide had done right in the beginning of the game start to come unglued. The last minute score by Clemson sealed it. How did Alabama get it so wrong when they were rightfully the odds-on favorite to win by at least 7 points? Overuse of RB Bo Scarbrough until he was finally injured was one reason. He did all you could expect of him with his first-half touchdowns but the Tide needed to vary the offensive game lest it become too predictablewhich it certainly became in the end. They thankfully threw to O.J. Howard and belatedly brought in Damien Harris to replace Scarbrough but they vastly under-utilized star performers like ArDarius Stewart, Calvin Ridley, and Gehrig Dieter among other explosive offensive weapons. QB Jalen Hurts should have been allowed to run far more frequently on QB-run designed plays in the second half. The question will always remain whether Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin should have been left in charge of the offense he was familiar with face-to-face and on the ground rather than bringing in Steve Sarkisian for his first game as Offensive Coordinator as he may have lacked the needed personal chemistry with individual players in a championship game situation. On defense, the Tide did reasonably well in the first half but the perennial problem remains that while its defensive corners were fast enough, they remained too short to deal with some of the tall Clemson wide receivers. Clemson QB DeShaun Watson was rightfully praised by one of the TV Commentators as being like an Offensive Coordinator and QB all rolled into one. His passing precision while under pressure was exceptional.
While Clemson won the championship game, Alabama remains the best team of 2016 in the QPRS College Football Ratings. Lest I be accused of bias in that Alabama is indeed my alma mater, I will point out that more than two thirds of the individual math-formula rating systems carried by Massey Ratings (http://www.masseyratings.com/cf/compare.htm) all agree Alabama was the top 2016 team. This is not surprising. Alabamas sole loss came in the championship game against Clemson (14-1) while Clemsons only loss was during the regular season to Pittsburgh (8-5). Alabama won ALL but ONE of its games (against Mississippi) by a margin of more than a 7-point TD/PAT. Clemson, however, won almost half of its games this year by only 7 Points or less! Both Alabama and Clemson had very similar schedule strengths and their relative Points Fielded on Offense were also quite close but where Alabama was in a league of its own was in Points Allowed its defense only gave up 195 points in 15 games! 2016 was definitely Coach Nick Sabans strongest Alabama team to date and it ranks as the 10th greatest college football team ever since 1920 in the QPRS Top 100 College Football Team rankings. 2016 Clemson ranks as the 16th greatest team since 1920 and is the highest ranked Clemson team of all time (the 1981 Clemson Tiger national champions, for example, are ranked 79th in the Top 100.)
Be aware that contests which depend on single-game results do not guarantee that the best team or competitor over an entire year will win the championship event. The Super Bowl winner has not always been the best season-long NFL team either for that matter. Playoffs exist to create buzz, sell tickets and additional advertising , but they can often skew who is best based on a thorough analysis of the results of an entire 12 to 16 game regular season. (The Chase in NASCAR auto racing was similarly devised to create artificial excitement with a reset at the end of the regular racing season but especially, to sell more tickets and create more televised advertising opportunity.)
Clyde Berryman / hardbraking at hotmail dot com