Clemson vs Alabama, college football's hottest and newest rivalry?


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Clemson and Alabama face off for the third consecutive season
Clemson and Alabama face off for the third consecutive season

CLEMSON – Clemson versus Alabama might be college football’s newest and hottest rivalry, and for Dabo Swinney the two programs represent consistency. Same bat time, same bat channel.

No. 1 Clemson faces off against No. 4 Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, the third consecutive season the teams have met in the College Football Playoff. The programs are the two winningest over the last five seasons, and Swinney says he doesn’t see much of a change in this year’s Alabama team.

“No. They're just really good. Same bat channel, same bat time. They're just really good and they always are. They're good in the trenches,” Swinney said Tuesday night. “They're great on defense. All of their statistics show they're great on defense. Their quarterback is more experienced. They have two freaky, great backs. Got good skill on the perimeter. They've always done a nice job with their tight ends.

“They do a lot of similar things that we do. They do a good job running quarterback. He's the second leading rusher and he's dangerous. Defensively, they're where they're supposed to be. They're in your face. You have to win your matchups on all three levels. It's just that simple. They don't give you anything. It's a tough matchup but we match up well.”

Swinney said the game highlights how successful both programs have been.

“From time to time, we'll reflect. Tim (Bourret) does a good job of reminding me of that stuff. Sometimes he'll send me something and I'll be like, 'Really?' We are such creatures of habit and so focused on what we do,” Swinney said. “That's why we've been so successful. We've won 61 games in five years and we've got a chance to tie Alabama at 62. I don't think there's any question that at some point down the road we'll look back at this decade and take great pride in it.

To be in our third Playoff is surreal. Playing Alabama was kind of fun the first time. But now it’s like, ‘Okay can we get rid of these guys? Can they just go away?' They won’t go away.”

Swinney said that he gets along with Bama head coach Nick Saban.

“I had some fun the other night with Coach Saban when we had the press thing,” he said. “I was messing with him. He was asking me if I was staying for the show after the press conference. I was like, ‘No, we didn’t have anybody good enough to win any of these awards this year. It was kind of a rebuilding year for us. Maybe next year we’ll have somebody good enough to win one of them awards.’”

It's a rivalry game that might just be beginning.

“Sometimes rivalries kind of pop up that you don’t expect. Somehow or another they happen in sports and I think that has happened here,” Swinney said. “I think it's a great, healthy rivalry. There’s a really great respect from both sides. I know Alabama people have great respect for good football. They might not necessarily like you, but they recognize good football, and effort, toughness.

"It’s the same thing here at Clemson. We all know somebody is going to win and lose, but I think everybody knows what to expect in this game. You are going to get unbelievable effort and it’s usually a few plays in a game like this. Sometimes crazy things happen but as far as the effort, the toughness, the will to win, the physicality that's on display in this game, it’s a sight to see and you just know it’s coming. As a competitor, you love that and embrace that. As a fan, you can sit back and know that it's going to be a great ballgame. That's kind of what's happened with this old rivalry that's popped up here. I'm proud of our guys especially after being a part of that one in 2008 when they just smashed us. We're a long way from that.”

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