This is the best summary of the game. I felt that the headline about Alabama not having a game plan was misleading at best, and absurd at worst.
IMO, three of the five factors have to be discounted:
- Defense scoring on turnovers — no defense can control the number and result of turnovers they create. It’s a combination of defensive pressure AND mistakes by the offense. Penalties and Clemson’s defense stopped Alabama’s offense from getting more points off the two fumble recoveries.
- Loss of Kiffen as offensive coordinator — Kiffin-led offenses produced only ten points against LSU, and fourteen points against Washington. Sarkisian led Alabama to a 14–0 lead and 31 points overall, with only three points coming off turnovers. How does one game plan against having your best offensive player get injured?
- The defense got tired — while you could argue this contributed to a couple of missed tackles, the real problem was Alabama’s pass defense was simply not that good this season. They played only one top 20 passing team during the season, and Ole Miss shredded them for 43 points. Clemson was #7 in the country in passing, and their receivers made a ton of big catches that no pass defense could stop.
Alabama is a great team, but the SEC is not the same conference it was in the past. The Tide did not face any elite teams until the playoffs, so it was hard to expose the team’s weaknesses (freshman QB, pass defense, lack of depth), and impossible to cover them up with a game plan.