Dabo Delivers, Levi's Shines, Bama Humbled

Last night’s National Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium was an unexpected joy in many ways.

We’d picked Clemson to win, but never expected a 44-16 spanking of the favored Crimson Tide.

We’d worried about the possibility of empty seats due to cratering ticket prices, but Levi’s Stadium was full…and rockin’.

Everyone worried about a wet, soggy field, but the weather gods came through with a break in the rain, and the turf held up beautifully.

Some of the highlights:

Coaching contrasts: Many felt justice was served after Alabama coach Nick Saban’s boorish, childish sideline behavior in the semi-final vs. Oklahoma. Compare his dour expression to the smiling, upbeat coach on the other side of the field, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.

Or how about Christian Wilkins & Clelin Ferrell teaming up to give Dabo a wet willy while he was being interviewed on the victory stand? Somehow I can't imagine Alabama's players doing that to Saban.

Outcoached: The legendary Saban and his staff were completely outcoached by Dabo and Co. The Tigers disguised coverages that led to an early pick six and later had perfect coverage on another interception thrown by Alabama’s talented quarterback, Tua Tagovaioloa. Clemson had only one penalty in the game, Bama had six, including a costly motion penalty on the goal line that turned a sure touchdown into a field goal. Alabama tried a fake punt that failed miserably and missed a PAT for the ninth time this year. How do you not fix that?

Frosh Phenoms: Clemson's extraordinary freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence showed remarkable poise, arm strength, and accuracy. He completed 20 of 32 passes for 347 and 3 TD with no interceptions. Lawrence connected with nine different receivers, including another freshman, Justyn Ross, who caught 6 for 153 yards. Ross had a pair of sensational one-handed grabs and a 74-yard touchdown.

Levi’s: Congrats to Al Guido, Ryan Oppelt, Paraag Marathe and the rest of the 49ers’ crew for working with the CFP folks to put on a great show. A year of hard work was rewarded with a smooth operation, a classy presentation, an entertaining game, a loud crowd and a playoff atmosphere that hadn’t previously been seen at Levi’s.

Halftime Insanity: Guess I'm getting old, but I couldn't figure out what the halftime show at Treasure Island had to do with the national championship game at Levi's Stadium.

Lil Wayne? Please.

It was the first time in my life I actually missed the talking heads.

Pac-12: The closest the Pac-12 got to the championship game was a sign in one of the locker rooms. A few days before the game, in another sign of desperation, the conference announced it had hired a big PR firm—FleishmanHillard—for crisis management and to “protect and enhance the brand.”

The firm will try to build relationships with “influencers” who will put a positive spin on the Pac-12’s many problems, expand media coverage on a national level, and utilize “one of comedy’s great coaches or fans” to star in a digital series addressing the conference’s late kickoffs and last-minute scheduling.

Good luck with all that.

Might be better to just win a few more games.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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