NATIONAL VIEW: Clemson king of college football

Clemson left no doubts Jan. 7 about who has the nation’s best college football team.
The Tigers’ emphatic 44-16 beat-down of mighty Alabama is their second national championship in three years. Both victories were earned against the Crimson Tide, the program every school has aspired to emulate during the past decade.
Unlike the previous title game, Clemson didn’t have to squeak by at the last heart-stopping second. The Tigers were dominant in all phases of the contest, beginning with an interception returned for a touchdown in the opening minutes. Alabama players and coach Nick Saban were left grasping for answers at every turn as they were swallowed by a sea of orange executing a masterful game plan.
While earning the program’s third title overall — its first came in 1982 — Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney showed that they have moved past trying to prove they belong in the conversation with Alabama. Mr. Swinney has built arguably the top program in the country, and it might not be toppled from that perch anytime soon.
The Tigers have terrific skills on both offense and defense, including a talented freshman quarterback with the poise of a veteran, an excellent coaching staff, top-notch recruiting and a rabid fan base. Some schools are lucky enough to have two or three of those qualities; assembling all of them puts Clemson at the pinnacle of the college football landscape.
The championship game began with heralded Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throwing an interception that Clemson’s A.J. Terrell returned for a touchdown. A few frantic minutes later the Crimson Tide looked to tie it up at 14-14, but their kicker missed the extra-point attempt. While kicking has been Alabama’s one odd weakness, the botched kick turned out to be an ominous sign.
Clemson roared to a 31-16 halftime lead behind three touchdowns from Travis Etienne, one of the best running backs in the country. Fabulous freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence connected with Justyn Ross — an Alabama native who spurned the Crimson Tide’s recruiting advances — for a 74-yard score midway through the third quarter. It was all over.
Part of Mr. Swinney’s success is the unique family atmosphere and culture he has established at Clemson, something that is attractive to players and their families. That is one of the reasons Mr. Ross chose Clemson over Alabama.
The Tigers also have an intense desire to win — and the confidence that they will prevail, regardless of the opponent.
“Our guys, they had a clear vision of the way we wanted this to go,” Coach Swinney said after the game, according to The Post and Courier’s Grace Raynor. “There was a lot of talk about ‘best ever’ all year long. We were never in that conversation. But (Monday night), there’s no doubt.”
Given the elite level of talent, recruiting and coaching at both Clemson and Alabama, there is a good chance that these same two teams could end up in another title game in January 2020.
Only next year, it may well be Alabama trying to prove it is Clemson’s equal.