Familiar Refrain: Tigers laugh, dance and win in underdog role


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Tigers dance after Orange Bowl win.
Tigers dance after Orange Bowl win.

The dictionary says that one of the definitions of a “refrain” is “a comment or complaint that is often repeated.”

The Clemson Tigers are underdogs – heavy underdogs in most circles – to Alabama in next Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. The comment is a familiar refrain for the Tigers, but you won’t hear them complain. They embrace that role. It’s already worked wonders this season.

In case you’ve been living under a rock - one of the combatants in the game is riding a nation’s best 17-game winning streak and hasn’t lost a game in almost 14 months. That same team has won 14 games and has a chance at 15. This particular team has gained over 500 yards of total offense in ten straight games, all while facing some of the nation’s top defenses. That same team has more rushing yards than its opponent, an opponent that hangs its hat on running the football.

This same team has taken on the “COUNTRY’S HOTTEST TEAM” three different times this season and come out victorious. They’ve been doubted, scorned and ridiculed. And they’ve won 17 in a row and marched through this season unscathed.

That team is Clemson. And they are the overwhelming underdog. Again.

And they’re ok with that. The players and coaches laugh at it. They poke fun at the four-letter network and the national pundits who couldn’t find their own butt with two hands and road map. They’ve laughed at the doubters all season long.

Against Notre Dame in early October, the Irish were picked by many to waltz into Death Valley and pick up a win. Clemson’s offensive line was weak and will falter under the pressure of Notre Dame’s big defensive linemen. Notre Dame would run the ball. Notre Dame was hot…perhaps the hottest team in the country…but the biggest reason most people thought the Irish would prevail was because they were Notre Dame and Clemson…..well, they weren’t.

The Tigers laughed and danced in the rain and won.

The Tigers rolled through the regular season schedule, but once again faced doubters heading into the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers were favored, but North Carolina was “THE HOTTEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY” and the naysayers were out in force. The Tigers laughed and danced in the chilly Charlotte air to the win and punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff.

Then came Oklahoma, a team that had been beaten by Texas earlier in the season and then played against every backup quarterback in the Big 12 on their way to the title. Oklahoma had breezed through their schedule of backups and they were “THE HOTTEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY.” The pundits laughed at Clemson, and even Vegas thought Clemson wouldn’t have a chance to win. Most of all, however, Oklahoma was supposed to win because they were Oklahoma and Clemson wasn’t. They were big and mean and physical and fast and had a big, physical defensive line and could the run the football.

Sound familiar? It did to Clemson, and the Tigers laughed and danced in the humid and hot Miami night air and punched their ticket to the National Championship.

Next up is big, bad Alabama. They’re good. Really good. And they might be “THE HOTTEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY.” Their defensive line is big and physical and Clemson’s offensive line won’t compete. The Tide can also run the football while Clemson is a passing team. Except……Clemson has 45 more carries this season for 339 more yards and averages 4.99 yards per carry to 4.80 for the Tide.

But go listen to those same pundits who have laughed at Clemson all season long and they are laughing again. It’s a familiar refrain, but that’s ok. These Tigers are used to it. They embrace it.

And they laugh and dance.

And they win.


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