Random thoughts on Clemson’s 35-31 victory over Alabama in the national championship game …

• It was great theater, a fabulous game, but the final game of the season illustrates a real problem college football faces. The games are too long. Four hours is too long to sit for anything. Perhaps it doesn’t seem that way when two such talented teams are playing for a national championship, but ordinary football games take that long every Saturday. The NFL can do it in three hours? Why not college football?

Three quick suggestions: No. 1, stop stopping the clock after every first down. There were 47 first downs Monday night. If the clock is just stopped for 10 seconds on every one (and it’s far longer on some), that’s 470 seconds right there. No. 2, find a solution to the endless stoppages for the endless play reviews from the booth. There are far too many of them and they take too long and they absolutely dam the flow of play. You don’t have to look far for a solution. The NFL has it right. No. 3, cut back on TV timeouts. Oh wait, you say there are millions of dollars involved there? We can’t do that? OK, just go with Nos. 1 and 2.

Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

• Despite replays, there were several officiating errors Monday night and they factored mightily in the game. There was at least one, maybe two, targeting calls missed against Alabama. And Clemson scored two touchdowns on “pick” plays, that is, where one receiver blocked a defender so another receiver would be open to catch the ball. So maybe the mistakes evened out.

• Hard to overstate the importance of Bama running back Bo Scarbrough’s leg injury. He ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, but the fourth quarter is when his size and power usually become especially effective. He wasn’t available.

• Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is a magical player and he is clutch, too. Why anyone questions his NFL potential is beyond me. He’s a winner.

• In a game featuring so many four- and five-star recruits on both sides of the field, surely one of the biggest stars was a walk-on player who had zero big-time scholarship offers. Hunter Renfrow, who caught 10 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, walked on at Clemson after receiving scholarship offers from Presbyterian, Wofford, Furman and Appalachian State. Kind of neat, don’t you think?

And nobody appreciates Renfrow any more than Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s coach, and a former walk-on wide receiver at Alabama, who says, “I wasn’t a walk-on, I was more of a crawl-on.”

• My 2017 national championship pick: Why, Alabama, of course.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.