Recap of the 2016 College Football Season

Nick Hedges, Reporter

This past Monday, the 2016 college football season drew to a close as Clemson scored with one second left to stun Alabama and win the national championship 35-31. The Tigers prevented the Tide from finishing an undefeated season as Deshaun Watson led his team back, thrashing through the mighty Alabama defense. Now, as we look ahead to next year, here are five things we took from this season.

Clemson is King
Up until the final second of the season, Alabama was, without a doubt, the best team in the nation. This lasted until Clemson scored a touchdown on its final play to beat the Crimson Tide and take the crown. At 14-1, the champion Tigers struggled to tough wins against Auburn and Troy before edging out Louisville, NC State and Florida State. Their only loss came on a last second field goal against Pitt. Through the struggles of the season, quarterback Deshaun Watson and linebacker Ben Boulware stayed constant, leading the Tigers all the way to the College Football Playoff. After a 31-0 drubbing of Ohio State, Clemson took their streak to Tampa to face Alabama, where Boulware and Watson led a gutsy fourth quarter comeback to beat the Tide and win the championship.

Oh So Close for Bama
Alabama was one second away from the perfect season. Up until the fateful match-up in Tampa Bay, Alabama completely rolled over everyone. It began with a 52-6 blowout over then-struggling USC. A few weeks later, the Tide endured their only close encounter of the regular season, outlasting Ole Miss 48-43. The Tide rolled through the SEC, beating top-tier opponents like Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn. After demolishing Florida in the conference championship game, the Tide were put up against Washington in the national semifinal. After putting the Huskies down with a suffocating defensive performance, Alabama went into the championship against Clemson as the favorite, only to be finally beaten by Watson and the Tigers.

One Man Show
Louisville’s sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson put on an individual performance for the ages in 2016. Jackson was responsible for 51 touchdowns this season, running for 21 and throwing 30. He threw  for over 3,500 yards, while also picking up over 1,500 yards on the ground, becoming one of only a handful of quarterbacks to accomplish that combination of statistics. Jackson led Louisville through the season, winning the prized Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football. Jackson will be back next year and will look to somehow top his stellar sophomore year.

USC and Penn State are Back
The Trojans and Nittany Lions met in the Rose Bowl this year and competed in one of the best Rose Bowls ever. USC kicked a field goal at the gun to beat Penn State 52-49 after coming back from a multiple-score deficit in the fourth quarter. Going into the game, the sides were widely considered the hottest two teams in college football. After starting 1-3 with a blowout loss to Alabama, the Trojans won nine straight games, highlighted by a 26-13 win over playoff-bound Washington, to get into the Rose Bowl. Penn State also had a hot finish to the year, winning their last nine games en route to a Big Ten Championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl. While USC narrowly edged the Nittany Lions, both teams proved that they will be forces to be reckoned with in the future.

Washington is For Real
The Huskies came out of nowhere to get all the way to the College Football Playoff. Led by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, U-Dub quickly burst onto the scene after running over perennial conference powers Stanford and Oregon, scoring 114 points over the course of the two games. The Huskies cruised until streaking USC came to Seattle and beat them 26-13. They quickly recovered though and went on to win the Pac-12 Championship over Colorado, clinching an unlikely playoff birth and a date with Alabama in the semifinals. Although that game didn’t go according to plan, the Huskies leave 2016 with a solid foundation for many years to come.


Next, here are some things to look forward to next season:

Bama Will Be Back
While the Tide lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Tigers in this year’s championship, don’t be surprised to see them back next year. Quarterback Jalen Hurts was only a true freshman this year, and will have a full off-season under his belt come next year. The defense will be strong as always, as coach Nick Saban will look for the same success next year, paired with a better ending.

Pac-12 in the Playoff
The Pac-12 will go into next year with multiple teams waist deep in playoff discussions. Of course, Washington will look to make a repeat trip to the tournament with Browning and much of their infamous Death Row Defense returning. Stanford will also have a shot at the playoff, but will have to find a way to replace the production of superstar back Christian McCaffrey. A third team looking to get into the hunt will be USC, who will go into 2017 as one of the most hyped teams in the nation, but the talent will have to play up to its potential if a playoff birth is in the cards.

Texas Takeover
Texas hired a new coach in Tom Herman this off-season, replacing a dejected Charlie Strong. Herman will bring a new energy and life to the Longhorns, and the further development of the program is already being evidenced by success on the recruiting trail. It’ll be interesting to see how the Burnt Orange does on the field, as Herman and company face stiff non-conference tests against Maryland, as well as a trip to Los Angeles to face USC. Don’t expect miracles in year one under Herman, but good things could be coming to Austin.

A New Champion?
After Clemson took the crown from Alabama, its not hard to expect a new champion next year. The Tigers will lose a lot of talent to the NFL, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, and with several teams looking stronger for next year, the Tigers will have to fight just to get back to the playoff, let alone win it. Alabama, Florida State, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, USC and Washington will all look to swipe the crown away from the Tigers, and it won’t be surprising if one of those teams, or someone else, wins it all come next January.