Clem­son can join elite com­pany with win vs. LSU

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By RALPH D. RUSSO

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.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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