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Lessons Learned from 2nd Year of the College Football Playoff

The first two games of the College Football Playoff might have been disappointing for neutral fans and television executives, but on Monday night in Glendale, Arizona, the second-ever CFP National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers gave the 2015 season the thrilling finale it deserved.

The back-and-forth title clash between the nation's two best teams was a smashing success for a system that had somewhat of a sophomore slump.

Two semifinals that were virtually over by the fourth quarter on a day of low TV ratings made some worry about Clemson and Alabama's duel in the desert.

But it was an excellent national championship game, and now it's time to reflect on Year 2 of the College Football Playoff as Alabama and its massive fanbase celebrate another title coming to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Here are five lessons learned from this year's playoff, from conference politics to scheduling conflicts to the title game itself.

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Buckeyes' Status as CFB's Most Valuable Program Proves Urban Meyer's Underpaid

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The confetti has hardly been cleaned up in Glendale, Arizona, as Alabama still celebrates its 45-40 victory over Clemson to capture the 2015 College Football Playoff Championship.

But while the Crimson Tide may have reclaimed college football's throne on the field, as far as money is concerned, Ohio State remains the sport's reigning champ.

Just hours before Alabama took the field at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Wall Street Journal's Andrew Beaton named the Buckeyes college football's most valuable program for the second consecutive season.

According to Ryan Brewer (via Beaton), an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, the Ohio State football program is currently worth $946.6 million, edging out Texas ($885.05 million), Michigan ($811.30 million), Notre Dame ($723.59) and the Crimson Tide ($694.87).

And while the Buckeyes' value dipped from $1.1 billion a year ago, their status as college football's only team worth more than $900 million is nothing to scoff at.

Surely that number will find itself attractive to prospective advertisers and sponsors such as Nike, whose athletic apparel contract with the school was valued at $4.3 million in 2015. It's a deal that is looking more and more like a steal for the apparel provider as it moves toward its 2018 end date.

Of course, there's a difference between "value" and "profit," and in USA Today's annual rankings of program revenue, Ohio State trailed Oregon, Texas, Michigan and Alabama. As an overall athletic department, the Buckeyes reported revenue of $170.9 million from 2014-2015, according to CBS Sports, trailing just Texas ($179.6 million).

But Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith asserted last November, "If I wanted to just have more money than Texas, we’d have more money than Texas."

Considering the estimated value of the backbone of Smith's department, it'd be tough to disagree. Which raises the question: Why doesn't Urban Meyer make more money?

Collecting $5.8 million, Meyer made the third-most of any college coach in 2015 and just .0061 percent of his program's estimated worth. Even when the now-fifth-year Ohio State head coach hits his 2015 contract extension's average salary of $6.5 million, Meyer will make just .0068 percent of his program's current worth.

Buckeyes fans would love to believe that its team's head coach is irrelevant to its value, that if it wasn't Meyer on the Ohio Stadium sideline, it'd be another big name maintaining the football program's value. And yes, there's certainly a strong case to be made that the players on the field deserve a much larger piece of the pie than the scholarships they receive for their services.

Tradition, history and a large alumni base—and larger fanbase—all play significant factors in the Buckeyes' value as well, as evidenced by Texas' strong standing despite its recent string of disappointing seasons. But make no mistake about it: Meyer is the CEO of Ohio State football and the man most responsible for the Buckeyes' status as college football's most valuable program.

Don't believe it? Just look at the last season Ohio State spent without Meyer standing on its sideline. Mired in a scandal that resulted in the departure of head coach Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes endured a 6-7 campaign in 2011, which culminated with sanctions that handicapped Meyer's debut season in Columbus in 2012.

Off the field, the financial numbers indicated a program in need of a jolt, with the Wall Street Journal valuing the OSU football program at $520 million at the end of the 2011 season—the seventh-most valuable program in all of college football.

Accumulating a 12-0 record while dealing with postseason sanctions in 2012, Meyer helped boost the Buckeyes' value to $586.6 million, up two spots to the fifth-most valuable in college football. In 2013, Ohio State's value jumped to $674.8 million—fourth in college football—before nearly doubling from its 2011 worth with an estimated $1.1 billion—with a "b"—in 2014.

The Buckeyes' value may have slipped this year, but so did those of the rest of college football's programs. Ohio State football is still worth more than any other program in the country and is only trending upward entering 2016.

And it's not difficult to see the reason why.

In Meyer's four seasons in Columbus, the Buckeyes are 50-4 and have remained in the national title hunt every year, including a chase for the Associated Press' national championship when they were ineligible for postseason play in 2012. Meyer has inked four top-seven recruiting classes and will sign another in three weeks, proof that the future of Ohio State is in good hands, even as the Buckeyes prepare to dominate the ticker of the upcoming NFL draft.

Even if 2011 was an outlier, Ohio State football was never as valuable during the height of Tressel's decade in Columbus as it is now. In 2007, coming off back-to-back national title game appearances, Forbes slotted the Buckeyes' program as the 10th-most valuable in college football at an estimated $71 million.

As far as college coaches are concerned, Meyer's properly paid, trailing only Alabama's Nick Saban in annual salary. But with Meyer admitting that the NFL came calling this winter, the marketplace could dictate that he's in line for another raise, as it'd be hard to imagine Meyer not garnering more than the five-year, $32.5 million contract Chip Kelly signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013.

According to CoachingHotSeat.com, 10 NFL coaches made more in 2015 than Meyer did at Ohio State. The demand he would draw as a big-name candidate if he were to test the waters would surely make him one of pro football's higher-paid head coaches.

"I don't want to get into that. I'm not naming teams," Meyer said when asked about receiving overtures from the professional ranks. "It makes you think, just because of the respect, but I love where I'm at."

Returning to Ohio State, Meyer will have his work cut out for him, returning just six total starters from his 2015 team. But with the way he's recruited, the Buckeyes are a safe bet to remain in the playoff conversation through the bulk of the season, which has become the standard he's set in his first four seasons at Ohio State.

"What does the future hold?" Meyer asked rhetorically last week. "The future's extremely bright."

Looking at the financial numbers, that rings true in more ways than one. And it may just mean that Meyer is in line for another well-deserved raise sooner than later.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Georgia's New DC Mel Tucker Will Help Keep Bulldogs Defense at Elite Level

Late Monday night in Glendale, Arizona, when Alabama defensive backs coach Mel Tucker left the victorious locker room after helping Alabama win the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, he walked out on top.

His team gave up yards in chunks to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, but safety Eddie Jackson—who he converted from corner in his first and only offseason with the Crimson Tide—forced the game's only turnover, which Alabama converted into a touchdown in the 45-40 win over the top-ranked Tigers.

Now, he's on to the next stage in his life with some familiar faces.

Georgia announced Tuesday morning Tucker will be the new defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs, joining new head coach Kirby Smart and assistant/analyst Glenn Schumann as former members of the Tide staff making the jump to Athens.

The trio made a quick break out of the desert in order to get started quickly at Georgia, according to Schumann's Twitter page.

Tucker is the perfect hire for Smart and will keep Georgia's defense—the nation's seventh-best in yards per game (305.9) and 13th in yards per play (4.76)—at an elite level in 2016.

No, Tucker didn't coordinate Alabama's defense last year. But he fixed its one major problem.

The Tide gave up a league-worst 133 passing plays of 10 or more yards a year ago. The move of Jackson to safety, the play of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Harrison and the increased focus Tucker brought helped drop that number to 112 in 2015 despite playing one more game than the previous year.

While he has never been a coordinator at the college level other than 2004, when he was the co-coordinator at Ohio State, he did serve as the coordinator at three different NFL stops with Cleveland (2008), Jacksonville (2009-2012) and Chicago (2013-2014). His 2011 Jaguars defense gave up just 313 yards per game, the sixth-best mark in the league.

Plus, that NFL experience will undoubtedly be helpful on the recruiting trail, as former Bulldog and current co-host of WCNN 680 The Fan's Buck and Kincade radio show Buck Belue noted on Twitter.

Besides, it's not like Tucker is going to have to do it all.

He has a tremendous insurance policy in Smart as a head coach, who led Alabama to top-12 defenses nationally in all eight seasons he was in a similar role under Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban from 2008-2015.

If anybody knows the defensive-minded head coach/defensive coordinator dynamic, what it takes to successfully work together and achieve sustained success, it's Smart.

With a stud like linebacker Lorenzo Carter coming back and a solid core that includes lineman Trenton Thompson and SEC interception leader Dominick Sanders, Tucker should be able to slide right in and pick up right where former coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left off.

He's the right hire at the right time for Georgia and for Smart.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Alabama's Derrick Henry Was Feeling All Sorts of Ways During CFP Championship

Derrick Henry might've had the most forgettable 158-yard, three-touchdown game in the history of organized football on Monday night.

That's not a knock on Henry. It's not his fault Lane Kiffin decided to open the lab vault and unleash Olympic sprinter/possible Resident Evil monster O.J. Howard on the world. 

But even with Henry's contributions getting somewhat lost in the sauce of Alabama's 45-40 College Football Playoff championship win over Clemson, he still made his presence known. Specifically, he made it known on Jake Coker's attempts to put water in his mouth.

Mike Tunison posted a GIF of Henry coming in hot and nearly congratulating Coker over the bench.

That was long before victory was assured. So, you can only imagine what Henry looked like after the Crimson Tide seized victory.

Reddit user rezips (h/t SB Nation's James Dator) posted footage of the running back's postgame reaction. He could scarcely contain himself:

Or not. I don't know exactly what that look is, but it looks like the face you'd make if aliens landed and began making out with your girlfriend.

Or maybe it's just the face you make when you've spent the last four hours running at top speed and being bombarded with all of the most intense emotions known to man.

Yeah. That's probably it.


Dan is on Twitter. He hasn't made that face since Fallout 4 debuted.

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Why Nick Saban Will Never Leave Alabama for NFL

From the moment the clock struck triple zeros at University of Phoenix Stadium, the confetti fell all over the Alabama Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban began drying off after getting doused with Gatorade, you could sense what was coming next.

The offseason, and the annual event known as "Saban Watch."

Saban just wrapped up his fourth national title in nine years in Tuscaloosa (fifth overall counting the 2003 title at LSU) and, as my colleague Adam Kramer noted from Glendale, Arizona, etched his name as perhaps the best coach in college football history.

There's only one thing left for Saban to do, right? After all, his 15-17 record with the NFL's Miami Dolphins from 2005-2006 sticks out like a sore thumb on his otherwise sterling resume.

Say it with me, say it with feeling and say it over and over again until you can't get it out of your head: Nick Saban isn't going to the NFL.

And here's why.

 

Cemented Legacy

Yes, Saban failed at the NFL level. 

Do you think he cares? If you do, have you seen Saban lately?

He ditched the process-oriented robot that won titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012—while lamenting the fact he missed out on a few recruiting days—in favor of the happy, smiling, dancing T-Rex that seemed to enjoy the conclusion to this season more so than any other title in his career.

"I'd just like to reiterate once again how proud I am of our team, everybody involved in the team, the players, number one," Saban said after the 45-40 win over Clemson, according to postgame quotes released by the CFP. "This was really about doing the best we could to help them have a chance to be successful and have an experience of winning a championship."

Of course, he's always going to be concerned with what's next, the players coming in, the fight against complacency and making sure everybody buys in to "the process." What has changed with Saban, though, is that he seems to enjoy that much more than he did just a couple of years ago.

The Kick Six, the Oklahoma loss and the semifinal shocker to Ohio State over the last two years humbled him, and his response is clear.

He no longer fears losing more than he enjoys winning, which seems to have quelled any desire to welcome the final challenge. As my colleague Lars Anderson wrote last week on Twitter, he's fine just where he is:

This challenge—the challenge of building and sustaining success at an elite level in college—is good enough. 

 

He's Not a Job-Jumper Anymore

Saban was labeled as a "job-jumper" after leaving LSU for the Dolphins in 2005, only to jump to Alabama two years later after repeated denials of his interest in the opening in Tuscaloosa.

Newsflash: That was nearly a decade ago, and people change. Especially 64-year-old men who have recently become grandfathers and put down roots in a location working in an industry like coaching that's inherently nomadic.

Yes, 54-year-old Saban would likely be all for the next big challenge, notice that grass that's always greener on the other side and throw his hat in every ring imaginable.

The only one he's thrown his hat into over the last couple of years is Texas, and all that did was earn him a $6.9 million-per-year contract through 2021 along with the reassurance he can retire in Tuscaloosa if he wants to and make enough to set his family up for generations—plural.

Saban spoke about his life outside of football prior to the game, according to the CFP:

I like to spend time with my family. I like to get away. We have two places that we sort of escape to. One is in Boca Grande, which is in Florida, and one is Lake Burton, which is in the mountains on the Georgia-North Carolina border. We have a lot of good relationships, a lot of good friends. I enjoy playing golf and spending time with those people and our family.

Could he cash in at the NFL level? No doubt about it.

His current income would be near the top of the NFL pay scale, according to CoachesHotSeat.com, but he wouldn't have that stability and the family structure he has built in Tuscaloosa would be uprooted in order to scratch that one remaining itch.

As Phil Savage of the Alabama radio network and SiriusXM noted after the Cotton Bowl, Alabama is Saban's life:

At his age, another move is just not worth it.

 

Knowledge is Power

If Saban would even consider a move up to the NFL, he would almost certainly require 100 percent control of personnel moves. 

Teams could certainly offer that, but as we saw with Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, that places the coach in much more peril if those decisions don't pay off quickly. 

Why bother?

He has all the power he needs in Tuscaloosa, has reeled in five straight top-ranked recruiting classes and has assembled some of the most impressive coaching staffs in college football history.

Even if he gets full control over an NFL franchise, he's never going to have more power anywhere in the world of football than he has right now. After all, his boss—athletics director Bill Battle—knew how important it was to keep Saban happy from the moment he got his job in 2013.

"I want to learn from that guy," Battle said, according to Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle. "He’s good. I mean, he’s really good."

Why would Saban bother messing with success?

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Every Power 5 Conference Team's Best Returning Player for the 2016 Season

Monday night, the 2015 season wrapped up in tremendous fashion with Alabama’s 45-40 national title-game win over Clemson. It was a fun end to what had been, at times, a lackluster bowl season, but it also reminded us how exciting college football can be.

It was also a reminder that college football is always changing. We’re less than one week away from the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft, which means new players will step into more prominent roles left behind by graduates and early departures. That doesn’t mean that the game will lose its talent, though. Far from it.

College football has plenty of special players left. Here’s a look at the most talented player remaining on each Power Five program. We did not include players who have declared for the draft, per NFL.com, and stats are from ESPN.com and programs’ official websites.

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Why Clemson Is an Early Favorite to Win the 2016 National Title

The 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship is over. Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country for the latter part of the 2015 season, came up just short in a 45-40 loss.

No, this wasn't the return of "Clemsoning." The Tigers lost by five points to a perennial power and now arguably the greatest college football coach of all time in Nick Saban. They fought until the absolute end, failing to convert an onside kick that would have given them a chance at a Hail Mary. 

The loss certainly stings for Clemson, but this is not the peak moment for this program. This is not the end. 

"There's no doubt that we will be back. It won't be 34 years before we're going to be back, I promise you that," Swinney said, via Cory McCartney of FoxSports.com.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee agreed: 

Clemson will be back on this stage. With all their key players returning next year, projecting the Tigers to return to this very game isn't unfathomable. In fact, it's perfectly reasonable. 

Not all teams are created equally. You know this. I know this. In any given year, there are a handful of teams capable of winning a national championship. For the sake of this discussion, Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford were given long looks based on returning players and coaches.

Every team will have question marks. This is unavoidable. For example: Alabama will need to replace quarterback Jake Coker and members of the best defensive front seven in college football in memory. The good news for the Tide is even the backups are outstanding.

And when you're an NFL factory like Ohio State, can the 2016 team pick up where the 2015 version left off? There's no Joey Bosa at defensive end and no Ezekiel Elliott at running back to anchor the defense and offense, respectively.

Of all the teams examined, the one that kept coming up was Clemson. It might seem too safe—boring, even—to select the Tigers to return to the national championship game, but there are a plenty of reasons to like them.

 

Strengths: It Starts with Quarterback Deshaun Watson

Watson is a once-in-a-generation type of talent for Clemson. That in and of itself gives the Tigers an edge over other teams in consideration. 

There's a tremendous amount of value in dual-threat quarterbacks at the college level because it gives one of the best athletes on the team the ball on every snap.

Watson isn't just an athlete playing quarterback, though. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. He made significant strides as a passer during his sophomore campaign. In September, he threw for 213.7 yards per game. By November, that number increased to 321.8 yards per game.

In a year without much star power at quarterback, Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. 

Against Alabama, Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, and he rushed for another 73 yards. In the words of offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain, there's not much Watson can't do: 

Watson was ready to play from Week 1 of his freshman season. That didn't mean Watson was going to play at a high level right away or consistently, but he was unquestionably the best option in 2014. By his third game—a 23-17 loss to Florida State in which he took over for Cole Stoudt—he threw for 266 yards. The following week against North Carolina, he tossed six touchdown passes.

He's only going to get better by the 2016 season. Watson will be a third-year player and in his second year as a full-time starter. The arsenal of weapons around him will return almost entirely intact. Leading receiver Artavis Scott will be a junior as well and the offense's best deep threat, Deon Cain, will be a sophomore.

The rapport between Watson and Cain blossomed as the season progressed. From Oct. 31 to Nov. 28, Cain had a touchdown in five straight games and caught 19 passes.

Though he was suspended for the playoffs for violating team rules, he's already enrolled in spring classes, according to ESPN.com, a good sign he's ready to compete again.

Cain is hardly the only explosive playmaker returning. Receiver Mike Williams, who missed practically the entire season with a neck injury, will be back. Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier reported that tight end Jordan Leggett will be back as well:

Running back Wayne Gallman announced on Twitter that he's considering his options but would like to win a national title:

For all the skill guys coming back, though, the more important group will be the offensive line. It's a team effort, but the Tigers gave up just 18 sacks in 15 games. The two big losses will be guard Eric Mac Lain and tackle Joe Gore, but three starters will be back, including freshman sensation Mitch Hyatt at left tackle.

Winning up front is paramount, and it can be difficult to keep an offense playing a high level when there's excessive turnover in the trenches.

The 2016 Clemson offense should strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators and opposing coaches everywhere. The amount of talent returning is almost unthinkable.

 

Weaknesses: 2 Key Areas Might Need to Be Rebuilt on Defense

By now, defensive coordinator Brent Venables deserves the benefit of the doubt. Heading into the 2015 season, the primary concern about Clemson was the defense. The entire D-line had to be replaced, as well as a handful of other starters.

Statistically, this was the best unit in college football in 2014, giving up a mere four yards per play.

All Clemson did this year was finish second in the country in sacks, tied for 24th in scoring defense and tied for 24th in total takeaways. So, yeah, Venables did a remarkable job with players who didn't have a lot of starting experience.

The good news for the Tigers is they won't have to go through the same type of defensive overhaul for 2016. Defensive end Shaq Lawson will enter the NFL draft, and NFL Network's Rand Getlin suggested in December that cornerback Mackensie Alexander is expected to do the same.

Much of Clemson's returning defense depends on a couple of key decisions involving safety Jayron Kearse and defensive end Kevin Dodd, who told Tony Crumpton of TigerNet.com that he's on the fence about leaving: 

I have submitted my papers. I want some feedback. Just to see where I stand. I'm willing to come back next year and take that leadership role. If that's not the case, then it's not the case. But I have been in this program four years. I felt like I have contributed well. I'm not saying I am leaving but if I did, I don't think I would be selfish. But I do want to come back and have that dominant season, but I do want to see where I stand.

If Dodd leaves, that means Clemson will have to replace nearly 50 percent of its sack production and roughly 30 percent of its quarterback hurries. That's a monumental blow to the pass rush.

Then again, Vic Beasley accounted for about 27 percent of Clemson's pass rush in 2014, and Venables showed the production could be replaced.

All things considered, Alexander would be the biggest loss. The 5'11", 195-pound redshirt sophomore is the team's top shutdown corner. For what it's worth, Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller believes Alexander could work his way into the top corner spot for the draft:

As David Hale of ESPN.com noted last month, Alexander had the lowest completion percentage allowed per target (31 percent) of anyone in major college football. Replacing that is no easy task.

 

Why the Tigers Will Win

In the end, head coach Dabo Swinney has made us ask "Why not?" rather than "Why?"

The 2016 national championship was a game between one of the sport's greatest coaches (Alabama's Nick Saban) and one who's carving his own path to greatness (Swinney).

Since losing the 2012 Orange Bowl to West Virginia, an undeniable turning point for Clemson with the benefit of hindsight, Swinney has beaten Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma (twice), Notre Dame and Florida State.

The list of coaches able to say as much in such a short time span is, at best, short.

Swinney is recruiting at a championship-level, too. For the past five years, Clemson has averaged a top-15 class. That's just good enough to compete for a national title.

With less than a month to go before national signing day, the Tigers have the No. 11-ranked class nationally. Should verbal commits hold, blue-chip players like all-purpose back Tavien Feaster, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and defensive end Xavier Kelly should be in positions to compete for playing time right away.

But before looking ahead, you have to go back—back to Clemson's 24-22 win over Notre Dame in monsoon conditions.

In an interview with ESPN after the victory, Swinney said his players had to B.Y.O.G: Bring Your Own Guts. It's been a mantra for the Tigers during their undefeated run all the way up to the national championship game.

When you win that much, guts aren't the only thing required. In 2016, Clemson will be B.Y.O.E: Bring Your Own Expectations. Despite losing a heartbreaker to Alabama, the Tigers will have high expectations next year. The pieces are certainly there to fulfill them.

For the first time in a while, Clemson knows defeat in the worst way. Those coming back will make it their mission to never feel like that again.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama vs. Clemson: Top Plays, Highlights from 2016 CFP Championship

In a thrilling game, the Alabama Crimson Tide earned their fourth national championship in the last seven years by beating the Clemson Tigers 45-40 on Monday night in Glendale, Arizona. Clemson's Deshaun Watson had an amazing game in a losing effort (405 passing yards, four touchdowns and 73 yards rushing), but Alabama got it done with a total team effort.

ESPN SportsCenter was able to capture head coach Nick Saban surrendering a smile after his team's victory:

 

The Heisman Winner

Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry had a monster game statistically. He ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries. His one-yard plunge put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. He also had a 50-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.

If this was his last college football game, he will leave Tuscaloosa in style.

 

The Quarterback

Jake Coker has received some criticism throughout his career at Alabama, and he's had to overcome a wealth of adversity. However, just as he was against the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl, the senior was at his best when it mattered most.

He made several crucial throws over the course of the game. In total, he completed 16 of 25 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. After his third touchdown strike, Coker was a little amped, per ESPN CollegeFootball:

That 51-yard touchdown pass was to tight end O.J. Howard. The junior had five receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Most of the yardage came on completions courtesy of busted coverages by the Tigers secondary, but Howard's speed is impressive for a player at his position.

The aforementioned big score was one of the three biggest plays of the game, per ESPN CollegeFootball:

 

The Pooch

With the game tied at 24 after an Adam Griffith field goal, Saban elected to try a surprise onside kick. The gamble worked, as the Tide recovered and took over just outside Clemson territory.

With Clemson still reeling from the sneak attack, Coker hit Howard for the 51-yard strike. Howard had already caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

The onside kick call took guts, but had it been unsuccessful, Saban and his staff would have been second-guessed. Because it worked, it'll go down as just another ingenious call by a college football coaching legend.

 

The Dive

After Watson rallied the Tigers to a field goal to answer Howard's touchdown, it was Kenyan Drake's turn to make his mark in the national championship. On the ensuing kickoff, Drake went 95 yards to make the score 38-27.

Drake had to extend and dive for the pylon to score, and the replay showed he stayed inbounds and broke the plain of the end zone. The amount of players who contributed to Bama's win are even more plentiful than the highlights presented indicate.

That's just proof that the Tide were indeed the best team in college football this season.

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Alabama vs. Clemson: Ratings for 2016 College Football Championship Revealed

The 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between Alabama and Clemson received a 15.8 overnight rating for Monday night's telecast on ESPN.  

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal passed along word of the rating from the Crimson Tide's triumph Tuesday, which he notes is a 15 percent drop from the 2015 title game.

USA Today noted last year's championship clash between Ohio State and Oregon received an 18.2 rating and 33,395,000 viewers.

Although overall viewership numbers haven't yet been released, the ratings drop continues a trend that was seen during the semifinal games, which were held on New Year's Eve.

Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated reported both matchups in the previous round saw viewership drop considerably (45 percent for Clemson vs. Oklahoma and 34 percent for Alabama vs. Michigan State). In all, the games lost more than 12 million viewers combined.

The New Year's Eve placement of those game certainly played a role in the decrease. Yet, Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com passed along comments from CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who stated there hasn't been any talk of redoing the schedule for future years.

"The contract is in place for 12 years," Hancock said Jan. 4 on The Audible podcast. "We have not talked at all about making any changes."

John Consoli of Broadcasting & Cable reported Jan. 8 that ESPN owed advertisers around $20 million in ad makegoods after ratings for the semifinals fell short of expectations.

The ratings for the title game may cause even more alarm bells to sound since it took place in its traditional Monday night slot against little sports competition. Furthermore, the game was highly entertaining with the Tide's 45-40 victory not being wrapped up until the final minutes.

Hancock told Fox Sports after the semifinals that "we all need to be careful, step back and remember that one year does not make a trend." That said, the ratings drop means the pressure will be on to produce bounce-back results at the end of next season.

 

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