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Clemson romps over Oklahoma 37-17, plus 3 things to know from Tigers' win

The No. 1 Tigers are headed to the College Football Playoff Championship Game after a run-heavy win over Oklahoma.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When it made Clemson the nation's top-ranked team, the College Football Playoff selection committee said it respected the Tigers' balance. That balance was on full display in Thursday's Playoff semifinal. A dominant second-half performance on both sides of the ball sent Clemson to the College Football Playoff Championship Game after a 37-17 Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma.

After a late second-quarter touchdown sent them to halftime down by a point, the Tigers rolled over Oklahoma in the second half. Clemson scored three touchdowns in their first five second-half possessions, all on series that went for 50 or more yards. When halfback Wayne Gallman dove into the end zone on the tenth play of the fourth quarter, the game was effectively over.

While Clemson was finding its stride, Oklahoma's offense sputtered. The Sooners were held scoreless in the second half, managing just 126 yards and turning the ball over twice. Just three Oklahoma possessions in the second half gained yardage. Clemson's offense might have scored 21 in the second half, but it only needed two. Its defense had comprehensively solved the Oklahoma offense.

Three things to know

1. The Tiger can change its stripes. Clemson had been one of the nation's most balanced offensive teams all season, passing for 289 yards per game while rushing for 222. But the Tigers are not balanced for its own sake; Dabo Swinney will take what the opponent gives him. On Thursday evening, that was rushing yards. Clemson set a program record for rushing yards in a bowl game with 312 on the ground. Deshaun Watson, the Heisman Trophy finalist who had been increasingly effective on the ground during the second half of the season, ran for a career high 145 yards, and his ability to freeze the defense with the threat of running helped open the passing game. Gallman, one of the nation's most underrated halfbacks, added 150 of his own, scoring two touchdowns in the process. Watson only completed 16 of 30 pass attempts, but with a ground game like that, it didn't much matter.

2. The Sooners forgot the boomer. As good as the adaptive Clemson offense was, it was the Tigers' second-half defense that punched the program's ticket to the College Football Playoff Championship Game. Clemson held Oklahoma to 378 yards, well below its 543-yard season average, and forced Baker Mayfield to throw two interceptions for just the second time this season. Most importantly, Clemson shut down Oklahoma's running game. The Sooners had not been held below 200 rushing yards in their last seven games. Clemson held them to 67.

3. The Playoff is not for the weak. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer once said that he would need 110 scholarship players to have played one more game after last year's College Football Playoff finale. The Orange Bowl proved just how tough it can be. Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson was knocked out with a knee injury early in Thursday's game. Oklahoma lost its top two halfbacks to injuries; with their third-stringer academically ineligible, the Sooners were forced to tape up Samaje Perine's injured ankle and send him back into the game (Perine reinjured the ankle soon after returning). Clemson won't be 100 percent going into the Championship game, but at this point in the season, nobody is.