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The Latest: Clemson strikes first on interception return

January 8, 2019

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the College Football Playoff national championship (all times local):

5:21 p.m.

Clemson has scored first in the CFP title game thanks to its defense.

On Alabama’s third play from scrimmage, Tua Tagovailoa threw off-target on a pass that A.J. Terrell intercepted and returned 44 yards for the game’s opening score.

The Crimson Tide normally are fast starters with TDs on the opening possession 11 times in the first 14 games and outscoring the opposition 210-45 in the opening quarter.

The Tigers had gone three and out on their first possession.


5:17 p.m.

The College Football Playoff title game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson is underway.

The Crimson Tide kicked off to start the game between the undefeated foes vying to become the first school in the AP poll era to finish a season 15-0.

This is the fourth straight year these teams have met in the playoff with Alabama winning the title game at the end of the 2015 season, Clemson winning the championship the following year and the Crimson Tide winning a semifinal matchup at the Sugar Bowl last season.

Most of the seats are filled at Levi’s Stadium with Clemson appearing to have more fans in attendance.


4:45 p.m.

Alabama linebacker Christian Miller is testing out his injured hamstring during pregame warmups of the CFP title game.

Miller is questionable to play for the top-ranked Crimson Tide in the championship game against Clemson.

Miller is a key part of Alabama’s defense with 8 1/2 sacks this season.


4:15 p.m.

Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was on the Clemson sideline before the national championship game with Alabama.

Her presence is not surprising: Haley is a Clemson graduate and was governor of South Carolina from 2010 until her appointment to the UN by President Donald Trump in January 2017.

She resigned her post last year, leaving office on Dec. 31.

Haley posed for pictures with Clemson supporters and spoke for a few minutes with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey.

Even though her Tigers have split a pair of championship contests with the Crimson Tide, this is Haley’s first time watching in person. “I had been working,” she said with a smile.


1:40 p.m.

The College Football Playoff is not close to expanding.

After a month of chatter about possible changes to the four-team playoff, the conference commissioners and university presidents who constitute the playoff brain trust met Monday at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose and quelled the speculation.

Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum said in a statement it was “way too soon” to know if expansion of the format to include more participants was even a possibility. The playoff is in its fifth season. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson will play in the national championship game Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Keenum told reporters the consensus was “very pleased” with the current four-team setup. He said there was discussion about ways to improve the playoff.


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