ALABAMA VS. CLEM­SON

6:30 p.m. Mon­day in Glen­dale, Ariz., ESPN

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Ralph D. Russo

glen­dale, ariz.» Re­gard­less of the out­come of Mon­day night’s Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off cham­pi­onship game be­tween No. 1 Clem­son and No. 2 Alabama, a case can be made that no other team in the his­tory of the sport has had a bet­ter run than the Crim­son Tide with coach Nick Sa­ban.

If Alabama beats the Tigers in the desert to win a fourth na­tional ti­tle in seven sea­sons, the ar­gu­ment may be set­tled.

There was talk early in the sea­son af­ter Alabama lost at home to Ole Miss that the Crim­son Tide dy­nasty was in de­cline. Now Alabama (13-1) is one vic­tory away from an un­prece­dented achieve­ment.

The Tide can be­come just the third school in col­lege foot­ball’s poll era, dat­ing to the cre­ation of The As­so­ci­ated Press me­dia poll in 1936, to win four cham­pi­onships in a 10year span. Notre Dame won four in seven sea­sons from 1943-49, but big-time col­lege foot­ball is hardly com­pa­ra­ble now to then. Those Fight­ing Ir­ish teams didn’t play in bowl games and never needed more than nine vic­to­ries to be the best in the coun­try.

Mi­ami won four cham­pi­onships in nine sea­sons (1983-91), but none of those teams had to play more than 12 games.

Alabama’s three cham­pi­onships with Sa­ban, who took over in 2007, have all come in at least 13-game sea­sons.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble,” Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney said Sun­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence with Sa­ban. Swin­ney heaped so much praise on his coun­ter­part dur­ing the 30-minute ses­sion with re­porters that Sa­ban looked un­com­fort­able.

“Coach Sa­ban, what he’s done, he’s one of the great­est coaches that ever coached the game,” Swin­ney said.

Sa­ban has a BCS ti­tle from his time at LSU, giv­ing him four over­all. Only for­mer Alabama coach Bear Bryant (six) won more.

“This is the first one I’ve sniffed as a coach, and he’s go­ing for his fifth,” said Swin­ney, who is in his eighth sea­son at Clem­son. “It’s in­cred­i­ble.”

Clem­son has one na­tional cham­pi­onship. Coached by Danny Ford, an Alabama na­tive and for­mer Tide player for Bryant, the Tigers won the 1981 ti­tle by beat­ing Ne­braska in the Or­ange Bowl.

The Tigers are back on the big­gest stage and again be­ing led by an Alaba­man and for­mer Tide player. Swin­ney grew up near Birm­ing­ham and played for Alabama when Gene Stallings was the Tide’s coach in the early 1990s. He was on the Tide team that won a na­tional cham­pi­onship in 1992, up­set­ting Mi­ami in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama then went through a long dry spell un­til Sa­ban ar­rived.

“Peo­ple will say, well, any­body can go win at Alabama,” Swin­ney said. “Not ev­ery­body can coach a great team. Not ev­ery­body can coach a great player, and I think he has a gift to be able to do that.”

The Tigers have won at least 10 games each of the last five sea­sons, just like Alabama. And they have their own shot at his­tory: If the Tigers win the na­tional ti­tle Mon­day, they would be­come the first team to achieve a 15-0 sea­son.

“We want to be a pro­gram that is com­pet­ing at this level on a con­sis­tent ba­sis and to do that, you have to be a top-10, top-15 pro­gram year in and year out,” Swin­ney said.

Since go­ing 7-6 in Sa­ban’s first sea­son, the Tide is 97-12.

Clem­son fresh­man linebacker Ken­dall Joseph poses with the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off cham­pi­onship tro­phy for a selfie Satur­day in Phoenix. Joseph and the top-ranked Tigers are one win from be­com­ing the first 15-0 ti­tle team in ma­jor-col­lege his­tory. David J. Phillip, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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