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Clemson, Alabama rematch one we should remember for a while

Well that was fun, wasn’t it?

The national championship rematch Monday night between Alabama and Clemson was everything that college football needed and more after the two boring games the semifinals produced.

The hype build-up between the two schools after last years’ national title shootout win for Alabama produced a sequel that was more entertaining that its predecessor, which is rare in sports rematches.

This time, the outcome was reversed. Junior quarterback Deshaun Watson used the last 2:06 on the game clock to lead Clemson on a nine play, 68-yard game-winning drive to give Clemson it’s first national title since 1981.

Watson hit former walk-on wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in the end zone with one second left on the game clock to give Clemson the 35-31 victory and knock of Alabama perfection and from their potential 17th national championship.

Alabama was denied its fifth national title in eight years.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was denied his sixth national title as a head coach in college football, which would’ve tied former Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

The Crimson Tide seemed to be on an unstoppable path with no one posing a challenge to them. Clemson came into Tampa Monday with no fear and all the confidence in the world and dethroned the crimson-clad powerhouse.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said it best last night after the victory.

“There was no upset tonight. That’s the last thing I told them when we left for the locker room.”

Swinney and his team believed they were the better team not only this year, but last year as well. They showed it on the grass field at Raymond James Stadium Monday night.

Clemson was already a program on the rise and on the cusp of being one of the elite programs in the country. The win Monday night catapults Clemson into that upper-echelon of elite programs and puts Swinney in the group of elite head coaches in college football.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson may have not won the Heisman Trophy this season, but after the national title game, he cemented himself as the best player in college football for the 2016 season. Watson torched Alabama for the second year in a row by completing 36-56 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns. Watson also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Watson finished the 2016 campaign with 4,593 yards passing with 41 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and one national title under his belt. The 17 interceptions tied Watson for third most in the country, but all that matters is the hardware in the end and Watson has that on his resume. Watson should go down as one of the best players in college football history.

18-year-old Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts looked like a freshman for the majority of the game. Hurts finished the game 13-31 passing for 131 yards and one touchdown. Hurts also had 63 rushing yards and one touchdown and had the biggest play of the game for Alabama.

With just over two minutes remaining, Hurts scampered for 30 yards for the touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 31-28 lead with 2:07 remaining in the game.

It wouldn’t matter. It was Clemson’s moment Monday night. A program was solidified in Clemson, South Carolina and Dabo Swinney took his Clemson Tiger to the pinnacle of college football.

Clemson will lose a lot from their national championship team from this season into the 2017 campaign. Watson, running back Wayne Gallman, wide receiver Mike Williams and linebacker Ben Boulware will all leave for the NFL Draft and start their professional careers.

Is the dynasty over for Alabama? Absolutely not. It’s just a bump in the road. Alabama will be right back in the national title picture next year and all will be forgotten about.

Saban will still haul in the top recruiting class in the country and Alabama will continue their normal process as the gold standard of college football. The process will never end as long as Saban is still on the Alabama sidelines and that doesn’t look to happen any time soon.

In the end, the Clemson vs. Alabama sequel will remain one to remember for a long time.

Dylan Rubino is the sports editor for The Daily Leader. He can be reached at dylan.rubino@dailyleader.com.