Clemson Football’s March Madness Championship Game (use Twitter link below to vote)
When Clemson returned to practice in 2016 following a devastating loss in the national championship game to Alabama the year before, its goal was to get back to the title game once again, but this time it wanted to win it.
The Tigers had come so close in 2015 to bringing the program its first national championship in 34 years that it had the will, desire and hunger to get it done. It also had the players.
Clemson had Deshaun Watson, its fearless leader, back at quarterback, as well as running back Wayne Gallman, wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott and tight end Jordan Leggett. On defense, linebacker Ben Boulware was back for his senior year, and was joined by and up-and-coming defensive front that had playmakers like Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell at defensive end, a freshman in the middle by the name of Dexter Lawrence and a senior in Carlos Watkins, who was the anchor.
Though the journey to its first national championship in 35 years was not an easy one, the Tigers got back to the title game and this time they took care of business as Watson found Hunter Renfrow from 2 yards out with one second again to beat Alabama, 35-31, in another instant classic.
Clemson finished the season with a 14-1 record, which at the time tied for the most wins in one season in major college football. The Tigers won their first national title in 35 years despite playing the nation’s hardest schedule. Clemson was just the sixth program since 1977 to win the national title despite playing the country’s most difficult schedule.
In 2016, Clemson defeated six programs that finished the year ranked inside the top 25 and five of those teams won at least 10 games. The Tigers won seven games by a touchdown or less and on four occasions they won the game in the final minutes or overtime.
Watson went on to finish second in the Heisman Trophy race, while winning both the Davey O’Brien and the Manning Awards as the nation’s top quarterback. Boulware was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and was the winner of the Jack Lambert Award, given to the nation’s top senior linebacker.
Like the 2016 team, the 2018 team was hungry to win another national championship. Wilkins and Ferrell, along with fellow defensive end Austin Bryant all decided to return for another season, though they all could have left college early for the NFL.
Instead they teamed up with junior Dexter Lawrence to form arguably the best defensive line in the history of college football. With an experienced linebacking corps to boot, as well as talented and veteran players in the secondary, Clemson had one of the best defenses in the country.
On offense, Kelly Bryant was back at quarterback following a season in which he led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff once again. He was also being pushed by an upstart freshman who was the No. 1 player in the country coming out of high school.
Travis Etienne took over as the starting running back and guys like Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross became playmakers at wide receiver. They also still had that guy by the name of Hunter Renfrow.
Clemson was loaded and after escaping near upsets at Texas A&M and at home against Syracuse, plus the defection of Bryant, it got rolling on Game 6 and never looked back. The Tigers won each of their last 10 games by 20 or more points, including a 27-point win over Notre Dame in the CFP at the Cotton Bowl and then a 28-point victory over Alabama in the national championship.
They finished the season 15-0, the first in the modern era of major college football to go 15-0 and the first team since 1897 to win 15 games in a season.
Now the question is, which one of these two champions is the best in Clemson history? Only you can decide.
Clemson Football’s March Madness Championship Game (vote below)
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