Ready to roll into his­tory

Alabama’ seeks its fifth ti­tle in eight sea­sons, but a mo­ti­vated Clem­son stands in the way


TAMPA, Fla. — Nick Sa­ban and Alabama are on the verge of leav­ing col­lege foot­ball his­tory be­hind. The top-ranked Crim­son Tide face Clem­son tonight in a Col­lege Foot­ball Playoff na­tional cham­pi­onship game re­match. A vic­tory would give Alabama five na­tional cham­pi­onships in eight sea­sons, a feat never com­pleted at the high­est level of the sport dur­ing the poll era.

The Tide (14-0) can be­come the first FBS pro­gram to fin­ish 15-0, along with the first to win four cham­pi­onships in span of six sea­sons, go­ing back-to-back twice in that span.

A case can al­ready be made that Alabama’s cur­rent run is the great­est in col­lege foot­ball his­tory. Bet­ter than Notre Dame back in the grainy black-and-white footage days of Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy. Bet­ter than Mi­ami’s long run of dom­i­nance in the

1980s and early ’90s. Bet­ter than any­thing Alabama did when Bear Bryant was lead­ing the Tide in the 1960s and ’70s.

An­other ti­tle would give Sa­ban six dur­ing the poll era that be­gan in 1936, in­clud­ing a BCS crown at LSU in 2003, match­ing Bryant for the most of any ma­jor-col­lege coach. With one more cham­pi­onship, there will be no more col­lege foot­ball dy­nas­ties left to com­pare to Sa­ban’s.

“I mean, I’ve never seen any­thing like it,” said Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney, an Alabama na­tive who grew up wor­ship­ping Bryant and ended up play­ing for the na­tional cham­pi­onship Tide team in 1992. “Ev­ery year is kind of that sea­son of its own and you have your chal­lenges, and it’s a jour­ney of its own. But to be able to re­group and cre­ate that edge and meet those chal­lenges, con­tinue to man­age your staff and your ros­ter and com­pete at the high­est level, I mean, it’s just un­be­liev­able what has hap­pened.”

Swin­ney and Sa­ban held a joint news con­fer­ence Sunday in Tampa.

Swin­ney’s team stands in the way of an Alabama cham­pi­onship again. The Tigers have not won a na­tional ti­tle since 1981. As Swin­ney and his play­ers have said over and over, it is the only box left for the pro­gram to check as it has taken a place among the elite in col­lege foot­ball.

Heis­man Tro­phy run­ner-up De­shaun Wat­son said he knew when he de­cided to come to Clem­son in 2012 he was join­ing a pro­gram poised for big things.

“I felt the en­ergy, I bought into what Coach Swin­ney was say­ing and what he thought the fu­ture was go­ing to bring to this pro­gram, and I wanted to be a part of it,” said Wat­son, a ju­nior most cer­tainly play­ing his last col­lege game.

Clem­son is work­ing on a streak of six con­sec­u­tive 10-win sea­sons, topped only by Alabama’s 10 straight.

Wat­son, the quar­ter­back from Gainesville, Ga., has been maybe the big­gest rea­son why Clem­son has be­come Alabama’s fi­nal and great­est chal­lenge the last two sea­sons. He was spec­tac­u­lar against the Tide in the ti­tle game last year with 478 to­tal yards. Un­able to stop Wat­son, Alabama used a sur­pris­ing on­side kick to swing the game its way and win 45-40.

The Crim­son Tide de­fense en­ters the game ranked tops in the na­tion in to­tal de­fense, rush­ing de­fense, yards per play al­lowed and points al­lowed. It is also re­spon­si­ble for 12 of the team’s stun­ning 15 non-of­fen­sive touch­downs.

Clem­son, mean­while, is com­ing off its best de­fen­sive ef­fort for the sea­son in a 31-0 Fi­esta Bowl win against Ohio State.

The Tide has won 26 straight games. The Tigers are 27-2 the last two sea­sons.

“Fra­zier-Ali type of fight,” Alabama tight end O.J. Howard said. “Two great teams, and we’re go­ing to go at it and it’s go­ing to be a great game Mon­day night.”

Howard added: “We’re Ali.”


Alabama tight end O.J, Howard (88) com­pares his team and Clem­son to the box­ing ri­valry be­tween Muham­mad Ali and Joe Fra­zier.


Quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son said he came to Clem­son be­cause he be­lieved the pro­gram was on the up­swing and would play in big games.

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