For DeShaun Watson, Clemson, a final chance at finishing on top
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

DeShaun Watson’s college career has been defined by close calls, but a win over Alabama would put an end to coming up short. 

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” might be a fitting phrase to sum up DeShaun Watson’s Clemson career. This isn’t to say he hasn’t been successful–his laundry list of awards and accolades speak for themselves–but several close calls in college football’s greatest individual and team honors have seen the star quarterback fall just shy of cementing an otherwise pristine legacy.

2015 saw the Georgia native finish third in the Heisman voting, despite throwing for over 4,000 yards, rushing for over 1,000 and totaling 47 touchdowns. This was en route to an undefeated regular season before falling just short in the National Title game to Alabama by a mere one possession. Sure, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey were equally deserving, but Watson’s third place finish in the Heisman standings certainly couldn’t have sat well with the star QB.

One of the favorites to to win the greatest individual honor in college football in 2016, Watson turned in another excellent season, compiling over 4,700 total yards and 46 touchdowns. However, he again, fell just short to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson in the voting.

The humble Watson has made it known that the team’s success is more important than his own success, though. Clemson has been one of the nation’s most successful programs under head coach Dabo Swinney, and has won just about everything a great program can–except a national championship.

Whether it be an ACC title, BCS bowl victory, playoff win, etc., a national championship fittingly is the only thing missing.

Standing in Clemson’s way is Alabama, the benchmark of excellence and a modern day dynasty. What more could Clemson ask for than another shot at the same program that just edged them in a classic game one year before?

Watson was the least of Clemson’s worries in last year’s affair, amassing 478 total yards and four touchdowns. It is likely that he’ll need a similar performance to keep pace with a Crimson Tide squad that has played just one game all season decided by one score.

In addition to Watson needing to play like the all-American we’ve come to know, the Tigers defense will have to improve on last year’s performance in which they allowed 45 points. However, the Tigers defense could just be hitting the stride needed to back their high powered offense. Despite allowing over 30 points on four separate occasions, a shutout of Ohio State in the first round of the playoff was a statement performance.

The defense obviously took a hit after last season. Losing premiere players for the NFL draft was imminent. Standout defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, shutdown corner MacKenzie Alexander and middle linebacker B.J. Goodson aren’t simply replaceable in just one year. They’ll need to correct glaring mistakes after letting Bama tight end O.J. Howard run free in their secondary (208 receiving yards, two td’s) during last year’s game.

After coming so close to upsetting Alabama’s dynasty last season, Watson and the Tigers will get one more shot to claim the throne to college football greatness. For Watson himself, he gets one last chance to be the bride.

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