Three and out: Alabama 45, Clemson 40 _lowres

Associated Press photo by Chris Carlson -- Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, tries to get away from Alabama's Jonathan Allen.

1 WHAT WE LEARNED

Maybe Clemson quarterback Dashaun Watson should have won the Heisman Trophy instead of Derrick Henry. Alabama’s defensive reputation was well deserved coming into Monday night’s CFP championship, but the Crimson Tide hadn’t seen the kind of run-pass threat that Watson presents. Watson was able to extend the play time and time again with his feet, either keeping for a run or setting up a typically accurate pass. He threw for 407 yards and four TDs, ran for 73 yards, and was pitching until the bitter end.

2 TRENDING NOW

The Pac-12 officiating crew. Because the game was played in Pac-12 territory and SEC and ACC crews weren’t allowed to call the game, the duties went to a Pac-12 crew. There were numerous clock issues, most notably a crucial mismanagement late in the first half when Clemson was driving for a score. Three extra seconds ran off after a first down to :09, resulting in Clemson having to settle for a field-goal attempt that was partially blocked by Alabama’s D.J. Pettway. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney complained bitterly at halftime, and rightly so.

3 FINAL THOUGHTS

They said the dynasty was dead after losses to Ole Miss the past two years and an un-Alabama-like loss to Ohio State in last year’s Sugar Bowl. Instead, it’s as strong as ever. Alabama has won four of the past seven national titles, matching an identical run by Notre Dame from 1943-49. Clemson’s play was national championship quality, and it had the best player in Watson. But Alabama had the best team, just good enough on offense, defense and in special teams to get the job done in a superb contest.

— Scott Rabalais