Clemson gives SEC blueprint to turn Tide

Well, OK, so that’s how it’s done.

Clemson 44, Alabama 16.

Finally, there’s a blueprint.

There’s hope for the Southeastern Conference.

Hopefully all the SEC football coaches were gathered around various TVs, pen in hand, taking copious notes and paying close attention to the carnage.

More than a few SEC die-hards, who normally cheer the party line whenever their frat members stray away from conference — SEC! SEC! SEC! — may have broken ranks just this once.

It’s worth the shame of coming away empty-handed at the national championship just this once.

None of them, of course, have a clue how to beat Alabama.

Maybe there’s hope now.

Clemson could lead you out of the eternal darkness and into the promised land.

Maybe Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will be hawking the instructional video on late-night informercials.

The details surely will be shared therein.

Maybe you have to go to Ridgemont High — Fast Times — and recruit Jeff Spicoli off a surfboard to quarterback your team as a freshman prelude to NFL stardom.

But until that video release, just at a passing glance at Monday’s championship game, there seems to be one major key to beating Nick Saban and Alabama.

And it’s really so simple the rest of the SEC is going to be kicking themselves over it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a drum roll, please.

Here’s the one key: You make it look easy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what Clemson did?

The whole world tuned in hoping to see Clemson keep it close, make a good game of it with a naturally likeable coach … and the Tigers took a leisurely stroll through the Tide.

Maybe it’s not as hard as the rest of the SEC thinks. Maybe the rest of the league is overthinking it.

True, it probably also helps to have the better team, which Clemson surely did.

At least Monday night it did.

But you have to make it look easy.

Just keeping it close is not the answer.

See, Bulldogs, Georgia. It’s done elsewhere occasionally in the SEC and never ends well for anybody but Saban.

You have to make it look easy — make it look like you can dial up any old play you want any time you want.

The game kept our interest as long as it did only because the mounting deficit was uncharted waters for the Tide. Who knew what number it would take to where you could trust Bama not to mount a comeback?

Like I said, there are probably details to be worked out, some fine print to be deciphered from the Dabo Plan.

And, oh by the way. It’s probably not as simple as getting Big Ten officials to oversee the affair.

True, the SEC/Bama-cartel conspiracists must have felt like they were watching a football parallel universe. It’s this oddball planet where Alabama doesn’t get all the breaks and precious few of the calls.

It’s probably overrated.

But it was a strange thing to witness.

Talk about role reversal. Alabama looked just like every SEC team that has recently tried to beat the Tide.

All the tell-tale signs were there.

Saban summed up the tone of the game perfectly with one postgame quote: “In this case, (he) never really ever got comfortable with what we needed to do to win this game.”

Dang. It usually comes pretty easy for him.

But he was right on. He hit it on the nose.

As strange of a sensation as it was for him, other SEC coaches know that queasy, uneasy feeling all too well.

You could see it in Saban’s body language on the sideline, which filtered into his team.

The body language said, “It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s not going to matter.”

Once that sets in, it doesn’t matter how many headsets you destroy or how many quarterbacks you bench.

You’re beaten.

You know it and Bama knows it ­— except, in this case Clemson knew it and Bama knew it.

It was so familiar.

Bama tried everything — SEC coaches can surely relate — and nothing worked.

Just the opposite.

Oh, the Tide moved the ball and threatened. Plenty of times. But long promising drives kept coming up empty ­­— and the next thing you know, quick as a hiccup, Clemson was effortlessly squeezing off another long touchdown with one-handed catches and tightrope acts.

Gee, where have we seen that before?

Panic sets in. It starts snowballing and a close game get out of hand.

All of a sudden you start going for it on fourth down with reckless abandon, you start faking field goals that ought to be kicked — Les Miles, circa 2014 — never mind that I don’t think a single trick play did anything this whole bowl season except blow up in the perpetrators’ faces.

Bama probably thought it was immune. Not this night.

The Tide was human, making human mistakes, calling plays with no logic.

Praying, hoping, begging.

And Clemson kept taking advantage of every opportunity … while Bama kept coming up empty no matter the good intentions.

The Tide had to feel like they were looking in a mirror.

But it had to be encouraging to the rest of the SEC.

Now, all they have to do is go get some players like Clemson’s.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com

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