Who Won the 2016 College Football National Championship?

The 2016 College Football National Championship kindled a rivalry of success that is still ongoing, but who was the winner of the game?

The 2016 College Football National Championship kindled a rivalry that would dominate the landscape of the sport for several years. Over the following three years, the same two teams would do battle at season end. Who was the winner of that initial battle, and how did they capture the 2016 College Football National Championship?

College Football National Championship 2016 Winner

The 2016 College Football National Championship was won by the Alabama Crimson Tide, the 16th claimed national title in program history. The success also marked the fourth national title of the Nick Saban tenure in Tuscaloosa.

After losing in the semifinal of the inaugural College Football Playoff, it was the first of several successes in the four-team playoff format for Alabama as they formed something akin to a college football dynasty.

The 2016 CFB National Championship formed a rivalry not born of geographic proximity or rooted in historical relevance. It was a rivalry of continued success, of the top players coached by the very best coaches that college football had to offer.

Saban’s Crimson Tide versus Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers would come to define late 2010s college football. But in the 2016 national championship, in Glendale, Arizona, Alabama would hold all the advantages as they emerged as a 45-40 winner.

Alabama Bounces Back From Early-Season Loss To Win the 2016 College Football National Championship

After winning three BCS National Championships in four years between the 2009 and 2012 seasons, Alabama entered the 2015 season on the back of a 12-2 season that had ended in a Sugar Bowl loss for the second consecutive season. As a result, the Crimson Tide began the year as the third-ranked team in the preseason AP Poll.

They quickly became the second-ranked team in the nation, comfortably despatching the Wisconsin Badgers and Conference-USA outfit Middle Tennessee State. In what would be the start of a Heisman-winning campaign, Alabama running back Derrick Henry punished the two early-season opponents to the tune of six rushing touchdowns. The Crimson Tide would roll to over 30 points in both games while holding their opponents under 20.

However, 37 points wouldn’t be enough for Alabama to win their third game of the season. Hosting the Ole Miss Rebels in front of College GameDay at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide committed five turnovers that proved decisive.

Hugh Freeze’s 15th-ranked Rebels team racked up an unassailable 43 points, subjecting to what would turn out to be the only defeat of the season for the 2016 College Football National Championship winner.

Alabama dropped down to 12th in the AP Poll following the defeat to Ole Miss. Even a 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe the following week couldn’t halt a downward slide in the polls, with a 13th ranking becoming the lowest since the end of the 2010 season for Saban’s Crimson Tide team. Nevertheless, Alabama was about to embark on a run to the SEC Championship.

After losing to Ole Miss, Alabama blitzed the rest of their SEC schedule. The onslaught began with a 38-10 win over the eighth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Arkansas and No. 9 Texas A&M fell in equally comfortable style.

Despite a hard-fought game with long-term rival Tennessee, a late touchdown from Henry combined with a legendary defensive stand allowed the Crimson Tide to continue their run to the 2016 CFB National Championship with a 19-14 win.

Alabama tamed the LSU Tigers 30-16, absorbed the bark and bite of the Mississippi State Bulldogs by leaving Starkville with a 31-6 win, then danced past the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 56-6 before riding Henry to a 29-13 Iron Bowl win over Auburn. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner ran the rock a remarkable 46 times (a school record), tallying 271 rushing yards in the Crimson Tide’s regular-season finale.

Henry — in partnership with a ferocious defense — once again powered Alabama to victory in the SEC Championship Game. Defeating the Florida Gators 29-15, the Crimson Tide became the first team to win consecutive SEC titles in almost 20 years. Meanwhile, their imposing RB broke through the SEC single-season rushing yards record set by Georgia legend Herschel Walker.

Finishing the season with a 12-1 record and an SEC title under their belt, Alabama entered the College Football Playoff as the second-ranked team in the nation. Facing a Big Ten outfit in the CFP for the second consecutive season, Alabama’s elite defense shutout third-ranked Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl as the Crimson Tide cruised to a 38-0 win and booked a date with Clemson in the 2016 College Football National Championship Game.

MORE: Who Won the 2017 College Football National Championship?

In one of the most memorable games of the CFP era, Alabama and Clemson went at it for 60 engaging, entertaining, and electric minutes of on-field action. After Henry had given the Crimson Tide the lead, two Hunter Renfrow touchdowns saw the first of multiple lead changes. As a result, Clemson headed into the fourth quarter with a 24-21 lead and the 2016 College Football National Championship in their sights.

However, two huge special-teams plays changed the course of the game and decided 2016’s national champion. After tying the game with a field goal, Alabama surprised Clemson with an onside kick, recovered by future NFL star Marlon Humphrey. An O.J. Howard touchdown followed, with a 95-yard kickoff return score from Kenyan Drake that sandwiched a Clemson field goal to put the Crimson Tide up 38-27.

Despite some heroics from Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, a 28th touchdown of the season for Henry and a recovered Tigers onside kick ensured that Saban’s Crimson Tide team were crowned the winners of the 2016 College Football National Championship.

That title-winning team contained a number of top-tier college football talents, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley, Rashaan Evans, Reuben Foster, and a whole host of defensive line talent that proved to be the bedrock of Alabama’s success.