INSTANT ANALYSIS: Payne, Alabama defense spark Sugar Bowl win over Clemson

2018 College Football Playoff: All-State Sugar Bowl – Clemson Tigers vs Alabama Crimson Tide

The 2018 College Football Playoff, featuring Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama, was the first time two teams from the same conference had made the four-team field. Trailing 10-6 in the third quarter, Clemson was driving to take a potential 13-6 lead.

Alabama and Clemson had met the last two years in the national title game, with the Crimson Tide topping the Tigers 45-40 in 2016 and Clemson returning the favor with a 35-31 win last year. The score was set up by Kendall Joseph causing and recovering a fumble on the Alabama 20-yard line on the Tide's first play of the half.

Before yesterday's Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Clemson there were a lot of people out there questioning whether or not the Crimson Tide belonged - today, not so much.

However, Renfrow wasn't able to add to that total as Clemson fell to Alabama 24-6 in the College Football Playoff semifinals matchup. This despite notching a 25-2 record as a starter and becoming the first quarterback this century to lead his team to the national title game in each of his first two seasons.

Tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence will be in the National Football League a year or two down the road, as will ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.

The rubber match of the Alabama-Clemson trilogy was a total dud compared to the previous meetings. This game was easily the worst offensive output of the season, if not the last few seasons, for Clemson and will surely send them back to the drawing board next season.

Pepper Rodgers, who starred for Georgia Tech in two Sugar Bowl victories in the 1950s, was the oldest honoree present, followed by Johnny Majors, who played in the game while at Tennessee and later coached Pittsburgh to a national championship victory and Tennessee to others. Outside linebackers Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller, both injured in Week 1, are available for the game, boosting a position group hit hard by health issues all season.

In addition to its ability to light up the scoreboard and control the clock, the Clemson defense is one of the strongest in the nation and should be ready for a battle with Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Crimson Tide amassed 261 yards, 3.4 per rushing attempt. Similar to Alabama in the yaer before, Clemson was unstoppable in the 4th quarter, scoring 21 points in the final fifteen minutes.

Hurts' performance was subtly important to the Crimson Tide's victory. The Tigers responded in kind, as the Tide was forced to punt after its first three plays from scrimmage. There are two truths that can exist at the same time, and we saw the proof of it on New Year's Day.

Clemson: Opens the 2018 season September 1 by hosting FCS school Furman. He knew that the real Alabama was in the building. Or will Alabama avenge their loss?

70,000 While the numbers aren't official yet, considering the early sellout of this year's Allstate Sugar Bowl, this year's game should mark the 62nd time in the Sugar Bowl's 84-year history that it has featured over 70,000 fans.

The touchdown came just seven plays after Payne had intercepted a pass to end a drive for Clemson.

The Tigers opened the second half by cutting Alabama's lead to 10-6 on a Spence 42-yard field goal. Neither team has picked up a first down so far.

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