They proved that they belonged.
Alabama did just that as they led from start to finish for a dominating 24-6 win over No. 1 Clemson at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
With Clemson’ defensive line getting all the praise heading into the trilogy between both teams, it was Alabama’s offensive and defensive line who dominated as the defense suffocated the high-octane Tigers offense as they held Clemson to just 188 yards of total offense on the night.
Down just 10-6 in the third quarter, and driving down the field, Clemson imploded as Alabama quickly scored two touchdowns in less than 30 seconds to take an 18-point lead.
It all began with defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne who picked off Clemson QB Kelly Bryant as the junior was hit as he threw with the ball landing in the arms of Payne who ran it back 21 yards on the return and even drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty thanks to a horse collar tackle by Clemson’s Tremayne Anchrum.
After the Crimson Tide drove down to the 1-yard line, Payne checked into the game. Looking like he was just in there to block, the 308-pounder sold the fake beautifully before catching the touchdown pass and getting both feet in bounds next to the pylon.
“I’ve got gold hands,” Payne said smiling after the game.
On the teams next offensive series, Bryant’s pass was deflected by Deon Cain which was intercepted by linebacker Mack Wilson who returned it 18 yards for the score to put the Crimson Tide up 24-6.
Up next for Alabama is a date against No. 3 Georgia in the national title game where it will be an all-SEC affair at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on January 8th.