The No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers are already at a disadvantage in preparing for No. 2 Alabama, and it’s only Day 1 of game week. The Tigers will have significantly less practice time this week than the Tide, thanks to Clemson’s academic calendar.
Per ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Clemson’s spring semester begins this Wednesday, meaning the Tigers have to follow the NCAA’s 20-hour per week limit for practice time starting on Tuesday. Alabama, on the other hand, doesn’t start its spring semester until Jan. 13, meaning the team has unlimited practice time all week leading up to the game on Monday, Jan. 11.
Clemson won’t be limited by a specific length of practices or team meetings until Tuesday, but starting on Wednesday the team can have a maximum of just four hours per day. An ACC spokesperson confirmed to ESPN that the Tigers will follow the four-hour limit.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to a team preparing for a national title game. In fact, this was the case just last year for then-No. 2 Oregon as they prepared for No. 4 Ohio State in the CFP championship game. Oregon’s spring semester began during the week leading up to the game, whereas Ohio State’s started the week after, just like Alabama’s. Ohio State Linebacker Joshua Perry admitted after the Buckeyes’ 42-20 victory over the Ducks that the unlimited practice time did give the players a slight edge.
“I would say the one thing that was advantageous to us was we weren’t worried about getting a new syllabus or shaking a professor’s hand and trying to figure things out for a semester,” Perry said via ESPN. “Is that a huge advantage? No, because you go the whole season doing the same thing anyway. You’re in class and you’ve got to game plan.”
With Alabama already being the favorite to win Monday night in Glendale, Ariz., the quest to defeat the Tide might just be a little bit harder for the Tigers. The Jan. 11 kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.