SANTA CLARA, Ca.--It was a night for new heroes on Monday night at Levi's Stadium. A new freshman QB to thrust the mantle of greatness upon. A new, younger version of a championship coach, whose pedigree is unquestioned and who has climbed to the top, where the throne, for a year at least, is his alone.
So it goes in the world of college football, where the reigning dynastic force (5 national championships in 9 years) Alabama was dethroned by a Clemson team that was tougher, hungrier and, unquestionably, better in posting a 44-16 victory over the defending national champion Tide.
Let's make one thing clear. The loss in NO WAY diminishes what Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Tide has accomplished over the past decade. They remain the gold standard of this era of college football.
But every dynasty ends. And Clemson, has been living in the same neighborhood as the Tide for the past four years, facing them in each of the past four CFB playoff Final Fours.
""They're pretty good,'' conceded Saban, who is now 2-2 in his last four meetings in the playoffs against Clemson, but only 1-2 in national championship games.
Yes, they are.
The are more than good. In freshman QB Trevor Lawrence, who completed 20 of 32 passes for 347 yards and 3 TDs, which earned him game MVP honors, Clemson has the new front runner QB for the Heisman next season, just as Alabama QB Tua Tagliovaila was elevated after helping the Tide beat Georgia to give the Tide the national championship last season when he was a freshman.
Then there is Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who now has two national championships in three seasons and is the heir apparent to Saban as the best coach in college football.
The question that will be asked and is already being asked, is "What's next for the Tigers and how far will the Tide--and Saban---fall.
The answer almost seems obvious. Both QB's will be back, both teams recruited as well as anyone in the country, and both head coaches will be back in familiar positions at the head of the class.
Oh, there might be some interlopers such as a Texas team, which gained traction from a solid Sugar Bowl win over Georgia and who knows where Oklahoma and Ohio State will wind up, but the harsh reality of the critics of a sport, which they say has been too top heavy the past two years, is that the only major change caused by Monday night's game is that instead of Alabama and Clemson being No.1 and No. 2 in the preseason projections, it is almost certainly going to be No.1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama, who will be targeted for another meeting in the CFB Playoff championship game in New Orleans next January.
What was obvious after Monday night's game was the satisfaction and elation by Clemson, which had finally climbed to the top of the mountain in college football.
"We're just little old Clemson,'' said Swinney. """And I'm not supposed to be here. But we are and here I am. How about them Tigers?.''''
Lawrence was equally delighted. ""We knew what we were doing,''' said Lawrence, with the poise of a senior. '"It was surreal. It was amazing.'''
Clemson has been amazing for the past eight seasons, with double digit victories each year.
But 15-0 is something no FBS team has ever accomplished. ""We beat Notre Dame (unbeaten), we beat Alabama (unbeaten),''' said Swinney. We left no doubt and we walk off this field tonight as the first 15-0 team in college football history.''
And after a few days to savor their victory, Swinney, like all coaches at his level, including Saban, will try and do it all over again.
And don't bet it won't happen.