DAPHNE, Ala. – The Alabama Crimson Tide’s win over the undefeated and top-ranked Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship has been unanimously voted the 2015 College Football Game of the Year in the United States Sports Academy’s annual ranking.

The Tide defeated the Tigers 45-40 in an exciting, closely fought game in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on 11 January 2016.

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban now has four national championships at Alabama and five for his career. Alabama won its 16th football national championship and the fourth in seven seasons.

The playoff system this year produced two closely matched teams and a thrilling back and forth game. The game remained close through three quarters until Alabama, down 24-21 going into the fourth, outscored Clemson 24-16 in the final quarter to secure the victory.

Special teams played a major role in the decisive fourth quarter. A perfectly executed onside kick by Adam Griffith was recovered by Marlon Humphrey after Alabama tied the game on a field goal seconds before. Alabama quarterback Jake Coker then hit O.J. Howard for a 51-yard touchdown to put the Tide up 31-24. After a Clemson field goal made it 31-27, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to put the Tide up 38-27.

Clemson came back to score a touchdown minutes later to make the score 38-33. Alabama’s O.J. Howard then rumbled 63 yards down the sideline after a catch to put the Tide up 45-33. Clemson scored another touchdown with 12 seconds remaining, but Alabama was able to secure the victory by recovering the ensuing onside kick attempt.

The game had many exciting stories including the performance of Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, superior quarterback efforts by Coker and Deshaun Watson, and Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney playing against his alma mater.

The College Football Game of the Year Award was developed in 2005 by the United States Sports Academy to pay tribute to a team whose efforts in a college football game exemplify the principles of high athletic endeavor, complete dedication to victory, and unified team effort. The College Football Game of the Year Award is part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport series. The Awards of Sport are part of the Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA), which was established as “a tribute to the artist and the athlete.”

Under the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year program, a Game of the Week is selected throughout the football season. From those games and all post-season play, the College Football Game of the Year is selected. Voting for the awards is done by the College Football Game of the Year Committee. Consisting of eminent sport leaders, the committee contains former athletic directors and individuals active in collegiate football who meet the criteria to serve on the committee and exhibit no bias in their vote.

The chairman of the committee is Jack Lengyel, former athletic director of the United States Naval Academy. Current committee members include: Robert Casciola, former CEO of the National Football Foundation; Ron Dickerson, former football coach, Temple University; Vince Dooley, former football coach and athletic director, University of Georgia; James Jones, former athletic director, Ohio State University; Rex Lardner, American Football Monthly managing editor; Mike Lude, former athletic director, University of Washington; Dave Maggard, former athletic director, University of California; artist Daniel Moore, the ASAMA 2005 Sports Artist of the Year; Bob Pruitt, former football coach, Marshall University; Dick Tamburo, former athletic director, Arizona State University; Roger Valdiserri, former sports information director and associate athletic director, Notre Dame; Al Vanderbush, former athletic director, United States Military Academy; and Dr. Richard Young, former athletic director at Oklahoma State and Washington State universities. Representing the Academy are Dr. Fred Cromartie, director of doctoral studies, and Dr. Bret Simmermacher, chair of sports coaching, who serves as executive director of the College Football Game of the Year program.

In honor of each year’s winner, the Academy commissions sports artist Daniel Moore, the 2005 ASAMA Sports Artist of the Year, to create a painting portraying a memorable or pivotal moment to commemorate the College Football Game of the Year and the paintings are on display at ASAMA. The Academy also donates $5,000 to the winning school’s scholarship fund.

To see the 2015 College Football Game of the Year weekly winners, CLICK HERE

Here are the College Football Game of the Year Award recipients:

2006: Rutgers University: Rutgers 28, Louisville, 25
2007: Appalachian State University: Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32
2008: Texas Tech University: Texas Tech 39, Texas 33
2009: University of Alabama: Alabama 32, Florida 13
2010: Auburn University: Auburn 22, Oregon 19
2011: University of Alabama: Alabama 21, LSU 10
2012: Texas &M University: Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24
2013: Auburn University: Auburn 38, Alabama 34
2014: Ohio State University: Ohio State 42, Oregon 20
2015: University of Alabama: Alabama 45, Clemson 40

Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.