Deshaun Watson vs. Vince Young: Who had the better championship game showing?
Deshaun vs. Vince: Who would you take?
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has owned Alabama. Over the past two national championships against the Crimson Tide's vaunted defense, Watson has accounted for 941 yards of offense and eight touchdowns.
The haze of the game is still lifting. In time, as is usually the case, we'll be able to view what Watson did against Alabama, and for his career, with more clarity. He's a special talent, though. We know that much.
And while Monday night's 35-31 win for the Tigers wasn't all-time great -- lest we forget the first quarter and a half was a suffocating strangle hold by Alabama that featured little in the way of offense -- it might have been an all-time performance by Watson. The junior was involved in one way or another in about 78 percent of Clemson's offensive plays and accounted for just over 90 percent of the team's 511 yards.
He didn't do it all on his own -- Clemson's receiving group made some beastly catches -- but Watson was brilliant against a defense believed to be impenetrable. He showed a tremendous amount of guts, as documented by the fact he went full helicopter mode trying to scramble for a first down...
Watson's performance brings to mind the one made famous by former Texas quarterback Vince Young in a 41-38 victory over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship. Put simply, Young had one of the all-time memorable efforts.
There are similarities between the two. Young, like Watson, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting when he won the national title. Also like Watson, Young had a career day with 467 yards of offense and three touchdowns -- including the game winner. Both were heavily involved in the success of their respective offenses.
The question is simple: Who was better?
In the interest of fairness, we'll only take into account this year's game between Clemson and Alabama. After all, Young didn't have the opportunity to play USC twice. Otherwise, it would be Watson hands down. Besides, different years, different teams, different defensive coordinators, etc., etc.
Here's how they measure up statistically...
Watson: 36-of-56 passing, 420 yards, 3 TDs; 21 carries, 43 yards, 1 TD, 78 percent of plays accounted for, 91 percent of yards accounted for.
Young: 30-of-40 passing, 267 yards, 0 TDs; 19 carries, 200 yards, 3 TDs, 78 percent of plays accounted for, 84 percent of yards accounted for.
And now for the pertinent defensive statistics (pre-national title)...
Alabama (via cfbstats.com): 11.4 ppg allowed, 62 rush ypg allowed, 182 passing ypg allowed
USC (via sports-reference.com): 21.3 ppg allowed, 117 rush ypg allowed, 227 passing ypg allowed
And the competition each quarterback faced...
Alabama's key drafted/draft-eligible players: LB Reggie Ragland (2nd round, 2016 NFL Draft), DT Jarran Reed (2nd round, 2016 NFL Draft), CB Cyrus Jones (2nd round, 2016 NFL Draft), DT A'Shawn Robinson (2nd round, 2016 NFL Draft), DE Jonathan Allen (TBD), LB Tim Williams (TBD), LB Ryan Anderson (TBD), LB Reuben Foster (TBD).
USC's key drafted players: LB Brian Cushing (1st round, 2009 NFL Draft), DE Lawrence Jackson (1st round, 2008 NFL Draft), LB Keith Rivers (1st round, 2008 NFL Draft), LB Thomas Williams (5th round, 2008 NFL Draft), DT Sedrick Ellis (1st round, 2008 NFL Draft), LB Rey Maualuga (2nd round, 2009 NFL Draft).
Finally, here's each player's game-winning drive:
Watson: 6-of-8 passing, 60 yards, TD; Drive: 9 plays, 68 yards, 2:06
Young: 4-of-7 passing, 31 yards, 3 carries, 20 yards rushing, TD; Drive: 10 plays, 56 yards, 1:50
Watson and Young made history in different ways. Watson relied more on his arm while Young made a greater impact with his legs. Both beat the greatest team at the time of the game and the defenses they faced had their fair share of future NFL draftees.
However, Alabama's better statistical numbers give Watson the edge. USC's legacy in the height of the Pete Carroll era was for offense. The Trojans boasted two Heisman winners in quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush. Alabama's legacy over the past two years centered around its stifling defense and its ability to score points directly off of takeaways.
Young's national championship performance is iconic. There's no doubt about that. Accumulating 200 yards on 19 carries is freakish. The vision of him running into the end zone on 4th-and-5 will forever be branded into the minds of college football fans. He'll go down as one of the greatest players to never have won the Heisman.
But so will Watson. When the numbers are stacked side-by-side, Watson, even without the aid of having beat Alabama twice, was better.
It's easy to get caught up in the moment and hyperbole, but we're not doing that here. We witnessed history Monday night.
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