The Clemson Tigers knew the feeling of defeat last season when they came so close to beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game. With a berth in this year’s game on the line, the Tigers utilized their experience playing in big games, holding on for a seven-point victory against the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan showed why they could have multiple defensive players taken in April’s NFL Draft, as they were able to handcuff Deshaun Watson through the first half.
With Watson unable to throw against the Wolverines, Wayne Gallman took over, rushing for nearly 100 yards in the first half. His effort was matched by Wolverines running back De’Veon Smith, who had his best game since a 158-yard effort against Indiana on November 19. Smith rushed for 100 yards in the first half alone, scoring twice to give the Wolverines a 21-14 halftime lead. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney must have given his team quite the talk in the locker room because Watson and the Tigers came out firing in the second half.
Watson connected with Mike Williams for two third quarter touchdowns, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game at 28-21. That would be the score heading into the fourth quarter until Watson hit Jordan Leggett on a 50-yard bomb to put the Tigers up two scores. Michigan was able to pull within seven points thanks to a Jabrill Peppers punt return for a touchdown, but the Tigers defense was able to fluster Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight late in the fourth quarter to hang on for the victory.