College Football Playoff Championship Game: Live Blog

FINAL UPDATE: 12:38 a.m.

A lot happened between updates. O.J. Howard made an unseemly sum of money with another lengthy catch that gave him five catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll move up quite a bit in the NFL Draft based on his final performance alone.

Deshaun Watson was unbelievable but that wasn’t enough to overcome the number of mistakes made by the Tigers. Watson passed for 405 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 73 yards on the ground. But the onside kick and the Kenyan Drake touchdown return were simply too much not to mention Watson’s interception, the weird timing issue in the first half, plus a litany of injuries that really hampered the Tiger effort in the fourth quarter.

Alabama is the best program in the country obviously. It’s probably the best college football program ever and having insane success in an era when it’s pretty tough to do once let alone five times for Nick Saban. I’ll leave you with this little anecdote; Lane Kiffin is an adult human with a poker face so terrible he has to bury it in his play sheet.

Someone hire this man now. Congratulations to Alabama and Clemson for outstanding seasons and a great, great game.

UPDATED: 11:53 p.m.

Clemson hasn’t been very good on kickoff coverage this season, and it finally got them with a Kenyan Drake touchdown return that blew the Tide lead up to 11 points with 7:31 remaining.

The Tigers naturally drove right down the field and the combination of a calm Deshaun Watson and an incredibly tough Wayne Gallman answered with a touchdown drive to cut the Tide lead to 38-33 with 4:40 remaining.

UPDATED: 11:40 p.m.

Jake Coker may have head me as he hit a huge 38-yard pass on third down to ArDarius Stewart to get the Tide in field goal range. Adam Griffith’s game-tying 33-yard field goal sets us up for a wild finish in the final 10 minutes.

And just like that, Alabama goes for an ice-cold onside kick that I’m very surprised wasn’t looked at more, especially since the kicker appeared to be offsides (though that’s apparently not possible).

O.J. Howard took advantage of more miscommunication in the Clemson secondary shortly after with another long touchdown. Howard now has four catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns and Dabo Swinney is once again very angry with a special teams official or two.

UPDATED: 11:18 p.m.

Another terrific example of what I was describing. Clemson was driving and looked ready to pounce on a 10-point lead (there had to be at least one ‘pounce’ for the Tigers tonight) but the Crimson Tide defense stepped up and finally brought Watson down behind the line of scrimmage. The Tide couldn’t do anything with it though, and Jake Coker missed an open wideout on third down deep in their own territory. While Coker is clearly talented, he’s kind of tightened up and shown his limitations tonight. Maybe he’s a fourth quarter kind of guy.

UPDATED: 11:03 p.m.

Deshaun Watson is a menace who can’t be stopped. Every time Clemson has needed an answer he’s provided one and settled his team down with surprisingly lengthy drives. Anytime either one of these teams appears poised to run away, the other comes back. This is the definition of a classic friends. Wayne Gallman got the score on this drive but he’s had a tough time finding running room tonight. He has 13 carries for 11 yards and a touchdown. He just trotted into the locker room as well so we’ll keep an eye on that. 24-21 Clemson with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter.

UPDATED: 10:39 p.m.

Well ESPN ran a halftime show that was almost entirely commercials. Perhaps they’ve recouped some of their good will with the advertisers who got no value in the New Year’s Eve games.

It’s no real surprise that corner Mackensie Alexander is out for the game with a hamstring issue, but now the injuries are piling up for the Tigers. Linebacker Ben Boulware has a deltoid issue and Artavis Scott looked a bit gimpy after the second half kickoff return. The Tigers had to punt and Alabama took advantage of a series of defensive miscues for a Jake Coker touchdown pass to tight end O.J. Howard for 53 yards.

Deshaun Watson just tossed another beautiful pass into the endzone, but it was broken up be an equally strong defensive play by freshman defensive back Ronnie Harrison. 21-17 Alabama on top.

UPDATED: 10:05 p.m.

Okay, now that looked like Shaq Lawson. His second sack of the night was a dominant power rush over the right side aided by Jake Coker holding on to the ball for far too long. Then there’s Deshaun Watson who shall henceforth be known as Poseidon for splitting the Tide so easily. Hmmm yeah I don’t know. We may keep workshopping that nickname.

The ineligible man downfield penalty was a killer after another set of big Tiger plays. The Tide sensed mild vulnerability and crashed in on three consecutive plays for a loss and another Clemson punt. They seem to be able to flip a switch at will or perhaps Nick Saban has a button on his wristwatch. Just as quickly on the other side, Jake Coker is really playing conservatively and has now been sacked four times.

Now both teams have missed field goals and we’ll go to the half tied. That was a strange clock snafu at the end, but this officiating crew has done well tonight.

UPDATED: 9:37 p.m.

It’s early, but Eddie Jackson’s interception may have just saved Alabama. Henry is really gaining steam now and it’s a bit unnerving to watch even though I don’t have to try and stop him. Kenyan Drake doesn’t even seem like he plays the same position and he’s no slouch himself (Al Cervik reference does not apply here). The touchdown evens the game up again at 14 and may give Deshaun Watson reason to reel it in a little bit. We’ll see if that’s a good thing or not for both sides.

I’m now increasingly hungry for some kind of taco scholarship which I saw advertised at some point. I miss college.

UPDATED: 9:17 p.m.

I’m not sure what Kirk and Chris are watching on the main telecast, but that Shaq Lawson sack was anything but impressive. He currently looks like the Great Pumpkin, moving ever-so-slowly and crushing the dreams of a kid in an open field.

Derrick Henry has been fairly well contained by Clemson aside from the 50-yard touchdown run. He’s clearly starting to gain some momentum and he always gets stronger later in games but so far I’d call that a ‘push’ for the Tigers. The missed field goal by ‘Bama is big too. No matter how wacky this game gets with tempo, I expect it to be decided late.

And right on time there’s another passing touchdown to Hunter Renfrow who now has three grabs for 47 yards and both Tiger scores. Deshaun Watson is playing out of his mind right now with 108 yards passing and just four incompletions. He’s also scrambled effectively for 24 yards.

This is what the prophecy foretold…

UPDATED: 9:05 p.m.

Oops. It’s not clear to me what the purpose of a blitz like this was. It took everyone out of the middle of the field and they all went to essentially the same spot so the linebackers were bunched up on what turned out to be the wrong side anyway.

The ensuing kickoff return from Artavis Scott was a huge answer for Clemson to set the Tiger offense up at midfield. The touchdown pass that followed a few plays later was a thing of absolute beauty. The throw was a 31-yard spiral perfectly placed over two defenders at the goal line. This game got exciting in a hurry. Clemson appears to have found something by moving the pocket a bit.

And to the gentleman in the Clemson section frantically clapping while wearing receiver’s gloves…I don’t think that’s how you make noise man.

UPDATED: 8:42 p.m.

Shaq Lawson has looked dreadful so far. He’s slow, stiff, and his only contribution to this point has been an offsides penalty earned by lining up WAY into the neutral zone. I don’t think we’ll see very much of him if that was any indication of his readiness. Lawson couldn’t even bend his left leg.

The Tiger defense still looked very good and I’m not sure if I liked the weird tempo that Alabama came out with. It was disjointed and ineffective, though the same strategy may look better later in the game after guys settle down. I haven’t seen a single camera shot of Lane Kiffin yet. I can’t believe it. Also, in terms of the color palette for this one I find Crimson to be a very weak red. There’s no pop there…though this is Star-spangled awesome….

UPDATED: 8:32 p.m.

Very quiet Alabama crowd. That clearly favors Clemson by a sizable amount. Not that anyone needs any further proof at this point, but Dabo Swinney is a crazy man and his defense takes the field to start this one.

UPDATED: 8:15 p.m.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills
And put your helmet on…

In this Bowie-fueled metaphor which will spin all night long, any of our star players could be major Tom. At present, I like to picture Deshaun Watson strapping up for his very own space adventure or maybe Heisman winner Derrick Henry blasting this classic in his crisp new Beats headphones (because these are student-athletes).

The big news out of pregame is that Shaq Lawson will start and Dabo says everyone of his guys should play. We’ll see just how effective Lawson turns out to be with a sprained ACL suffered just 12 days ago in the win over Oklahoma.

Stick around Inside The ACC tonight for a little championship game tomfoolery. Corso picked Clemson, Steve Spurrier is shirtless, and there are killer snowmen on television. Let’s get weird.

Follow me on Twitter @BestCates. Like us on Facebook and check out @InsideTheACC.

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