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Fundamentals, Efficiency Power Clemson

By BJ Bennett
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Beating Alabama by 28 points, and becoming the first-ever FBS side to finish 15-0, the Tigers were, impressively, more athletic and more physical than the Crimson Tide.

n a national championship game between two teams that had clearly distinguished themselves from the rest of college football, Clemson proved there was yet another level that even this version of the game's modern-day dynasty couldn't reach. Beating Alabama by 28 points, and becoming the first-ever FBS side to finish 15-0, the Tigers were, impressively, more athletic and more physical than the Crimson Tide. In the shadows of all the highlights and big plays, however, Clemson won with fundamentals.

What the Tigers did was overwhelm Nick Saban and Alabama; what they didn't do played just as critical of a role.

Clemson, on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights, against the defending national champions, did not turn the football over a single a time and had one penalty called all game long. When the pressure was at an all-time high, composure, for the Tigers, followed suit. The end result, against an opponent that thrives on even the slightest of mistakes, was one of the most efficient title game performances in college football history. For all of the talent on the field, composure proved to be Clemson's biggest advantage. A true freshman quarterback set the tone.

In addition to avoiding turnovers and penalties, the Tigers were downright clinical in clutch situations, staying consistent through the volatility that consumes most games. Clemson, with a strong blocking effort from the front five serving as step one, was 10-of-15 on third down tries on Monday night and the Tigers converted their only fourth down attempt for good measure. Trevor Lawrence converted on throws of 3rd-and-14, 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-12 and 3rd-and-9; all of those plays came on drives that resulted in touchdowns. Defensively, Alabama's last three drives into the opposing redzone, twice getting to the 1-yard line, resulted in three total points.

Opportunities were maximized all the way around. A quick pick-six from A.J. Terrell on the Crimson Tide's first offensive possession was an early statement. Tua Tagovailoa's second interception, grabbed by Trayvon Mullen, halted an Alabama drive and promptly resulted in 23 consecutive points from Clemson. As the Crimson Tide searched, desperately, for momentum, the Tigers never once gave them a chance to get it back. That stability forced a sense of urgency upon Alabama, with Saban, early in the third quarter, calling an ill-advised fake field goal attempt, one which the defense easily saw coming.

With all due respect to the talent at the skill positions and the line of scrimmage, in-the-spotlight was Clemson's best position on the field.

Such resolve is a top-down approach. From head coach Dabo Swinney and staff to the leadership core of talented veterans who turned down the NFL for another run at greatness, the Tigers played with both the determination and detail of a champion. It's not often that you see a convergence of both. Clemson won every game on the schedule this season by being more talented and, importantly, more focused. The Tigers, for their grand finale, were nearly perfect. There was no letdown and, correspondingly, no question.      

College football's new gold standard is orange. That measure is physical and psychological, alike. 

Clemson is the game's current powerhouse program. Starting with the basics, the foundation is as strong as it gets.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports