Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Hattie Nash

Alabama big man Da'Ron Payne shows off versatility

Alabama big man Da'Ron Payne shows off versatility

Out of Alabama's four playoff teams, this one is probably the worst, but Clemson isn't the favorite.

Every yard was a struggle.

The College Football Playoff rubber match rolled the Tide's way, thanks to turnovers offensive troubles.

"We wouldn't have thrown it to him if he didn't", Saban said. "I couldn't be more proud of the way a bunch of guys competed for 60 minutes".

An all-SEC championship game, Alabama against LSU in 2011, ushered in the end of the Bowl Championship Series.

When Georgia's semifinal double-overtime victory against Oklahoma in Rose Bowl was announced, sending the Bulldogs to the national championship game, both fan groups broke into cheers.

There would be no drama in the nightcap.

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I don't think anyone would be surprised to see these two meet up again, in another 365 days.

Apparently, the Crimson Tide cared not one little bit for splitting the last two championship games with Clemson.

But any thoughts of a Tiger rally were snuffed out by the time the third quarter was done.

Following an Alabama punt, the Tigers found their rhythm on offense before Kelly Bryant's pass was intercepted at the Tide's 37-yard line and returned 21 yards by Da'Ron Payne to the Clemson 42-yard line. There were Payne's arms, big and burly, preventing it from hitting the ground. It's defending champion Clemson taking on the team they bested past year, Alabama, with a spot in the title game on the line. That's certainly what Clemson was thinking, totally biting when Hurts faked the handoff.

"I've got gold hands", quipped Payne, who was picked as the game's defensive MVP. The old-school school that is still very much in style?

"I think both teams have the capability of scoring points", Alabama Coach Nick Saban said. "But congratulations to Alabama".

Clemson played 10 bowl teams, including four ranked opponents on the road, and defeated each. "No doubt about it".

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So there will be story lines for days leading up to next Monday's national championship game in Atlanta, what with the coaches in each other's heads and a contrast between a team that scored 54 points in one semifinal with one that gave up just six in the other. The Tigers will depend on Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant to keep the Alabama offense in check. This defensive performance was almost as impressive. It ended its season with a 27 percent performance against Auburn. And here was Alabama, the champ two years ago, shutting the door, then jamming a chair under the knob to hold out whatever was on the other side. The Tide defense held that offense to negative-seven yards in the first quarter.

"This is big-boy football", Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said at the last of his approximately one million news conferences here before this game.

As a program, Alabama may have heard that Clemson was prepared to rip away its crown as the dominant team in college football. Sorry, the Tide remains on top.

That doesn't bode well for an Alabama offensive line that isn't quite as formidable as in years past. What we fans too quickly ignore is the next drive of the Auburn game.

No. 4 Alabama dominated No. 1 Clemson in a 24-6 massacre that not only signaled that "Bama was back", but might be better than ever. The sophomore quarterback has 1,940 passing yards with 15 TD passes and just 1 interception. The Crimson Tide lead 10-0.

(10:00) Alex Spence hits a 44-yarder to put Clemson on the board. Clemson-Alabama 3.0 kicks off within a few hours.

Clemson is second (12.8 points) and sixth (277.9 yards). Saban vs Dabo, Tide vs Tigers! can you feel it!?

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The highlight was a touchdown pass to 310-pound defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne. He knew that the real Alabama was in the building.

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