If you were creating a perfect football team, you would obviously want the best running back, a quarterback who throws deep, a dominant defense, a great special teams and a very smart coach.
Alabama showed all that in the Cotton Bowl, putting the Crimson Tide one win from another national championship.
The Tide rolled past Michigan State 38-0 Thursday night in a national semifinal. Now they are headed to the College Football Playoff Championship Game against Clemson, which beat Oklahoma 37-17 in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson is undefeated and ranked No. 1. Alabama went into the postseason ranked No. 2. But this performance showed what an incredible all-around team they have.
“I’m really, really proud of our team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Our guys had a vision of what they wanted and everybody paid the price for what they had to do in preparation.”
The best example of how good the Tide played was that Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry was only a small part of the story.
Although Henry ran for two touchdowns, the offensive MVP was quarterback Jake Coker. He completed 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards. He had a 50-yard pass to Calvin Ridley that set up a touchdown and another 50-yarder to Ridley for a touchdown. The two also connected on a 6-yard touchdown pass.
The defense was even more amazing. Alabama kept Michigan State from running (allowing just 29 yards) or passing (two intercepted passes, four sacks). The Spartans had gone 196 games since the last time they were shut out.
Coaches are always talking about needing to play well in all three phases – meaning also special teams – and the Tide did that, too. Cyrus Jones returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown. It was his fourth punt-return TD of the year, setting a school record and tying the SEC record. Adam Griffith, meanwhile, kicked a 47-yard field goal.
With their dominating win, the Crimson Tide have a chance to win their fourth national championship in seven years. Saban has a chance to get his fifth national title. And Henry has a chance to become the 15th player to win the Heisman and the national championship in the same season.
The title game is January 11 in Glendale, Arizona.
“We’re going to enjoy this moment,” Henry said. “It was a great performance and we just want to carry it on.”
Photos: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images (celebration), Tom Pennington/Getty Images (action)