Clemson can join elite company with win vs. LSU
NEW ORLEANS — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has this drill down.
The Sunday before the College Football Playoff championship game a news conference is held with the head coaches. They compliment each other’s team and talk about focus and preparation. After, they shake hands and pose for photographs with the trophy that goes to the winner.
This was Swinney’s third time doing the dance, always as the team trying to derail a dynasty. Now his Tigers are on the cusp of joining exclusive in college football history.
No. 3 Clemson (14-0) will try to become the fourth team since The Associated Press began crowning college football national champions in 1936 to win three titles in four seasons when it faces No. 1 LSU (14-0) on Monday night at the Superdome.
“They know,” Swinney said of his players. “They’re very well aware of what they’ve been able to achieve. And listen, regardless of what happens in the game tomorrow night, it’s really been a historic run. To win two out of the last three national championships is amazing.”
To win the first two, Clemson upset Alabama twice in the championship game. The Tigers also lost twice to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the playoff, including in the 2015 final.
In those previous Sunday-beforeDENVER
the-final news conferences, it was often Swinney — who grew up in Alabama and played on the Tide’s 1992 title team — being asked to put Saban’s unprecedented tenure in Tuscaloosa into perspective.
Fast forward to Sunday and it’s Clemson that has put itself in position to match one of Alabama’s greatest accomplishments. The Crimson Tide was the last team to win three championships in four seasons, winning BCS titles in 2009, ‘11 and ‘12. The Tide has won five championships in 13 seasons under Saban.
Nebraska, under coach Tom Osborne, won national titles in 1994-95 and then shared the championship in 1997 with Michigan after being voted No. 1 in the final coaches poll.
Notre Dame won three in four seasons in 1946-47 and ‘49, being crowned the champs by the AP each time.
A case cab be made that what Clemson is trying to do would top them all.
The playoff makes teams go through two quality opponents to earn a championship. The Tigers were the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0 last year and will have to do it again to repeat, beating two undefeated opponents in Ohio State and LSU along the way.
A victory Monday night in front of what will unquestionably be a partisan crowd in LSU’s backyard will make Clemson the seventh major college program since 1950 to win at least 30 straight games.
The last team to win backto-back national titles with a perfect record was Nebraska in the mid-90s. Those Cornhuskers played a total of 25 games.
Swinney has often complained this season that his team hasn’t received the respect it deserved while running roughshod through the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson was the first AP preseason No. 1 to end the season No. 3 despite not losing a game since it happened to Alabama in 1966.
Swinney turned perceived slights into fuel for his team. Clemson is a verified college football superpower, but the Tigers remain upstarts, still with something to prove in their minds.
“Ever since I’ve been at Clemson that’s how it’s been,” All-America linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “We always get the, ‘We don’t play anybody,’ this and that.
“We’re like the red-headed stepchild in other groups.”
QUALITY COACHES LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, left, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pose with the trophy after a news conference for the NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game on Sunday, in New Orleans. Clemson is scheduled to play LSU today.