Clemson had no business punching a ticket to New Orleans to defend its national championship. They'll be there anyway. It took a Herculean gathering of guts, plenty of help from an Ohio State side that was leaking oil, and long galloping strides from Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. It took a miscommunication on the last meaningful play of the game and victory materializing in the hands of defensive back Nolan Turner.
The 29th straight win for Dabo Swinney's side began with a 16-0 hole that should have been even deeper. Some key Buckeyes drops and stiff redzone defense kept the Tigers in striking distance.
Etienne played patty-cake on a manly 8-yard touchdown run and Lawrence rambled 67 yards on slippery natural grass to cut the score to 16-14 before halftime. The two hooked up for a 51-yard score to give Clemson the lead before relinquishing it, setting up a do-or-die situation from their own 6-yard line with 2:55 left to play.
Along the way there was a controversial overturn on an Ohio State fumble return score and a near catastrophic fumble on the final punt of the game. But given the opportunity, Lawrence showed why he's the reigning champion.
A four-play, 94-yard drive was capped with a brilliant, Tim Tebow-like pass to Etienne, who scampered to paydirt. One final takeaway from a resilient Tigers defense sealed the deal.
It wasn't easy. And it shouldn't have been.
These were two fantastic teams battling to the final whistle. In the end, Clemson was able to climb the medal stand and live to fight another day. They'll have all they can handle against the buzzsaw that is Joe Burrow, but skepticism about their chances should be far off in the rearview window.
What will it take to snap Clemson's streak and kill the champion? One hell of a lot. They took punch after punch from an elite opponent and fought through the daze.
Taking the college football crown from them will require prying it out of their cold, dead hands. Good luck with that.