The nation’s No. 1 team is still undefeated.
Clemson picked up its 14th and most important victory of the season Thursday night, beating Oklahoma, 37-17, in the Orange Bowl to advance to the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Should Michigan State beat Alabama in Thursday night’s Cotton Bowl, the Spartans would meet the undefeated Tigers for the national title a week from Monday in Arizona.
Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Wayne Gallman had huge days rushing the ball, combining for 295 running yards, and Clemson’s defense bottled up a normally explosive Oklahoma offense, limiting the Sooners to just 67 rushing yards and keeping quarterback Baker Mayfield relatively in check.
Mayfield and the Sooners zipped down the field on the game’s opening drive, going 75 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Watson responded later in the quarter, taking the Tigers all the way to the Sooners’ nine-yard line but having to settle for a field goal.
Clemson kicked off the scoring in a much more eventful second quarter, going on a 96-yard scoring drive capped by a Watson touchdown run. That score, though, was only made possible thanks to a big trick play, a fake-punt pass from punter Andy Teasdall to defensive tackle Christian Wilkins that gained 31 yards.
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The teams then both reached into the red zone but had to settle for field goals, and Clemson kicked another field goal after getting to the Oklahoma 26-yard line. But Mayfield struck again with a lightning-quick touchdown drive featuring passing gains of 20 and 42 yards before an 11-yard touchdown toss that gave the Sooners a 17-16 lead. Clemson reached field-goal range right before the half, but Watson chucked a pass to the end zone that was intercepted.
But the third quarter belonged to the Tigers. A 12-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half ended in a Gallman touchdown rush to put Clemson back in front. Oklahoma got good field position following a missed Clemson field-goal try, but the Sooners turned the ball over on downs, which was immediately followed by a four-play, 70-yard touchdown drive by the Tigers, capped by Watson’s 35-yard scoring toss to Hunter Renfrow. Before the quarter’s end, Oklahoma again reached the Clemson 40-yard line, but Mayfield threw an interception to end that drive.
Clemson tacked on seven more points to open the fourth quarter, capping a nine-play touchdown drive — all runs — with another Gillman scoring rush to give the Tigers a 20-point lead. Mayfield and Oklahoma answered with a strong drive, getting all the way down the Clemson five-yard line, but a Mayfield pass was intercepted by Ben Boulware to bring the Sooners’ scoring chance to a screeching halt.
Clemson finished with a whopping 530 total yards and limited Oklahoma to just 378 yards. Watson finished with 145 rushing yards to go along with 187 passing yards. Gallman rushed 26 times for 150 yards.
The Tigers will face the winner of Thursday's Cotton Bowl between Michigan State and Alabama in the national championship game.