TAMPA, Fla.—We worked at convincing ourselves Clemson could win.

We made cases for Deshaun Watson as maybe the nation’s best quarterback.

We said Alabama QB Jalen Hurts, trying to become the first true freshman in 31 years to play quarterback for a national champion, was likely to be bedeviled by Clemson’s stout defense.

We had a hard time believing Alabama could change offensive coordinators on the eve of this game and not have problems.

We saw the Tigers sink their claws into mighty Ohio State 31-0 while Alabama struggled for the longest time against unloved Washington, and we said, “Clemson can do this.’’

And then, when the game started, Alabama was. . . Alabama.

Even as their offensive troubles mounted, the Crimson Tide rolled on to 10-point leads, 17-7 and 24-14. An improbable touchdown gave Alabama a 31-28 with 2:07 left.

It wasn’t enough. Clemson got it right in the rematch, beating the Crimson Tide 35-31. With the win, the Tigers atoned for last year’s heart-breaking 45-40 loss to Alabama and earned their first national championship since 1981.

And with the win, Clemson put a dagger in Alabama’s goal of adding another in its quest for college-football dominance. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.