Sparty washed away
Alabama and Michigan State each won a share of the 1965 college football national championship. The Spartans were number one in the final United Press International coaches poll, released following the end of the regular season, which was fortunate, since they lost the Rose Bowl to UCLA. The Crimson Tide won the title from the Associated Press, which took a poll following the bowl games. Alabama vaulted from No. 4 to No. 1 after No.2 Arkansas lost the Cotton Bowl to LSU, Michigan State lost to UCLA, and Alabama beat No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
Half a century later, the schools met in the Cotton Bowl in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Somewhere in the heavens, Bear Bryant was grinning from ear to ear. Duffy Daugherty was crying in his Guinness. And maybe, just maybe, Frank Howard has a line to Dabo Swinney, because Dabo is going to need all the help he can get in the next 11 days.
Alabama crushed Michigan State 38-0, with Crimson Tide quaterback Jake Coker completing 25 of 31 passes for 286 yards. Calvin Ridley, who has stepped into the No. 1 receiver role vacated by Amari Cooper, now starting for the Oakland Raiders, caught eight passes for 136 yards and both touchdowns.
The only solace the Spartans can take away is they limited Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to 75 yards on 20 carries. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, given Coker’s big night and the lack of offense produced by Connor Cook and his mates.
Michigan State has come a long way under Mark Dantonio. The bad news is it will have a devil of a time remaining amongst the elite of college football, as the Spartans play in the brutal Big Ten East, where Ohio State and Michigan have usually dominated.
Alabama now faces Clemson for the championship January 11 in Arizona at the Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium. The Tigers earned their berth in the final with a 37-17 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Swinney was a receiver on the Crimson Tide’s 1992 national championship, and he was an assistant under Gene Stallings and Mike DuBose at his alma mater. It wasn’t that long ago Clemson was almost always on the short list of underachieving teams, but tonight’s victory not only improved the Tigers to 14-0, but it showed once and for all Clemson can win and win big when the chips are down.
Clemson will be playing for its first national championship since 1981, when Swinney was 12 years old and most of the parents of the current players were in elementary school. Alabama will be in its fourth national championship game since 2009, and Saban will be coaching for his fifth championship, three at Alabama and one in 2003 at LSU. If experience matters, then it should be no contest. However, Clemson really has nothing to lose, even if it is 14-0. Nobody outside of South Carolina (save Gamecock fans) is going to give the Tigers much of a chance.
It will be 2016 in 15 minutes in Tuscaloosa, Dallas and everywhere else in the Central Time Zone. Whoopee.