The 2019 College Football National Championship Game saw the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide meet to decide the title winner for the third time in four seasons. With the two teams tied at 1-1, who would emerge as the winner of the 2019 College Football National Championship and assert themselves as the dominant force in the sport?
College Football National Championship 2019 Winner
Under the stewardship of true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Clemson was crowned the 2019 College Football National Championship winner after obliterating the Crimson Tide 44-16 in the title game. Lawrence and the Tigers’ offense ruthlessly carved Alabama apart in front of 74,814 fans in Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.
The result marked the largest Alabama loss under head coach Nick Saban. Meanwhile, Lawrence was named offensive MVP for the game after becoming the first true freshman to lead a team to a title since 1985. It capped off an undefeated regular season that saw Lawrence scoop multiple awards. But, the 2018 season didn’t start off with the future No. 1 overall pick under center.
Faith in Trevor Lawrence Leads Clemson to the 2019 College Football National Championship
It’s easy to think of the 2019 College Football National Championship-winning Clemson team as an unstoppable juggernaut that curb-stomped all comers in an effortless cruise to the title. The history books will say that’s exactly what they were. At that point, no team had gone undefeated in the College Football Playoff era, a perfect 15-0 season also being the first for any program since 1897.
The 2018 Clemson team will be remembered for two things.
Firstly, Lawrence led a scoring offense that finished the season ranked fourth in the nation, averaging 44.3 points per game. The unit was ram-packed with playmakers, with Travis Etienne Jr. named ACC Offensive Player of the Year after racking up 1,658 yards and 26 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Lawrence’s pass-catching weapons included Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, and Amari Rodgers, who combined for 25 receiving touchdowns.
Secondly, the defense was a unit that will go down as one of the greatest in the history of college football. Led by the “Power Rangers” — a defensive front consisting of Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, and Austin Bryant — Clemson allowed just 13.1 points per game on their way to the 2019 College Football National Championship. Three of the front four tallied double-digit tackles for loss, while Isaiah Simmons and A.J. Terrell gave them impactful playmakers at every level of the defense.
Ferrell earned multiple awards, being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and taking home the Ted Hendricks Award as college football’s top defensive end after logging 20.0 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Meanwhile, Wilkins combined his on-field excellence with off-field achievements to win the William V. Campbell Trophy — often referred to as “the academic Heisman.”
With all the success, it’s easy to forget the ups and downs, the complications of the 2018 season that led Clemson to the 2019 College Football National Championship.
The year started with a quarterback controversy. Head coach Dabo Swinney had named Kelly Bryant as Clemson’s starter for the season, but with the assertion that Lawrence would see substantial playing time. While the rotation worked well against FCS Furman — with both Bryant and Lawrence scoring for fun in a comfortable 48-7 win — there were tougher times to come.
Clemson’s bid for an undefeated season nearly came undone on multiple occasions. In Week 2 against Texas A&M, the defense stood tall to thwart a two-point conversion that would have pulled the Aggies level late in the fourth quarter.
Both Lawrence and Bryant had their struggles, with the senior QB having the lion’s share of their limited success. The Tigers also got their fair share of luck, with a goal-line fumble preventing a potential Texas A&M touchdown in the fourth quarter.
After two comfortable wins against Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, Clemson almost came unstuck against Syracuse. Having named Lawrence the starter ahead of the game, Bryant declared that he would seek a transfer, needing to sit the rest of season to maintain a year of eligibility.
When the true freshman was pulled out of the game due to a heavy hit to the head, Chase Brice — who would end his college career at Appalachian State — was called in to lead a Clemson comeback. The Tigers were 41 seconds from disaster.
That game sparked a fire in Clemson, and they savaged the rest of their ACC schedule. Wake Forest, Florida State, North Carolina State, Louisville, and Duke all succumbed to substantial defeats, with the 20-point win over Boston College the smallest margin of victory for the rest of the year.
Clemson comfortably despatched rival South Carolina in the Palmetto Bowl, ending the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record as the second-ranked team in the nation across all three major polls (AP, Coaches, College Football Playoff).
A 75-yard Etienne touchdown on the opening play set the tone for the ACC Championship Game with Pittsburgh. Clemson dominated, booking their place in the Cotton Bowl in emphatic style with a 42-10 win over the Panthers.
Yet again, however, there was disruption on the horizon threatening to derail the Tigers’ potentially unbeaten season. Three players, including star defensive lineman Lawrence, tested positive for a banned system and were suspended from the CFP semifinal with Notre Dame. Eventually, the players would miss the 2019 College Football National Championship Game as well.
Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter. The Tigers took the fight out of the Fighting Irish in a 30-3 walkover that was effectively over at the half. After a close-fought first quarter, the title game itself took a similar turn.
With star turns from Lawrence, Ross, and Etienne, Clemson was up 31-16 at the half, completing a 44-16 shellacking by the end of the third quarter. Clemson had their revenge for a loss at the semifinal stage the previous year and a second national championship under coach Swinney.