Clemson imposed their will to the point that they held the Sooners without a point in the third and fourth quarters, while notching 21 points of its own.
"It's been awesome to be able to replace essentially every single person on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and to have zero drop-off if not be even better, maybe statistically, on both sides, and just really to be able to take over games", guard Eric Mac Lain said. The #1-ranked Clemson Tigers and the #2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide dominated in their respective semifinal games to advance to the CFP Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona, on Monday, January 11.
Junior defensive end Shaq Lawson, a consensus All-American who came into Thursday's game tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead in tackles for loss, suffered a knee injury on Clemson's first defensive series of the game.
But some of this year's success has to do with sheer talent - and team attitude, said Joey Singleton, a Gainesville, Georgia resident who watched Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson as a high school player there.
Margaret Thompson, who was on the sidelines at Clemson home games for 27 years as a deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff's Office, said she couldn't find the words to explain how much Swinney has meant to Clemson.
Deshaun Watson might not be the second coming of Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton, but he's an accomplished passer and a risky runner. The only other time this season he had two passes picked off in a game was at Tennessee in the second game of 2015.
In 2011, the Tigers were a program that was just happy to be in Florida for a BCS bowl game, having defeated Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship and dreaming of what could be.
Oklahoma received the ball to open the game and quickly drove down the field behind beefy running back Semaje Perine. Wayne Gallman knocked off Oklahoma safety Steven Parker's helmet fighting for extra yardage. "We did a great job stopping the run and in the second half, the defense came up with some huge plays". Said defensive coordinator Brent Venables, "The second half of the season, we hadn't had that mentality, that step on their throat, taste blood mentality-until today".
"They played more physically than we did", Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "But we weren't tonight".
Watson was named offensive MVP after finishing with 187 yards passing and 145 yards rushing. "Guys were in position to make a play".
Alabama players celebrate after the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game against Michigan State, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.
The one thing that truly stood out to me about Clemson while watching it beat Oklahoma was its defensive line.
The Tigers went up 10-7 in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Watson, capping a seven-play, 96-yard drive.
Later on the same drive, a fake punt fooled the Sooners and turned the game around. "We knew it was going to be challenging". Perine ran for 40 yards on that drive but amazingly, the Sooners would finish the night with just 67 yards.
Clemson retained its lead, 13-10, after the teams traded field goals - 36 yards by Huegel and 22 yards by Seibert.
It was 17-0 in the third quarter when Alabama's Cyrus Jones gets a punt and then weaves his way through the defense, 57 yards for a touchdown, that made it 24-0, and the Tide were in complete control.