Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has a ton of respect for Alabama, to the point that he thinks Clemson has to essentially put together a perfect game to beat them.
The Tigers face the Crimson Tide on Monday for the national championship. And Swinney said Wednesday that to win that matchup, the Tigers can’t just do enough to “knock (Alabama) down.” They have to go for a true knockout punch.
Dabo on beating @AlabamaFTBL: "You can’t knock them down. You gotta knock them out. The draw always goes to the champ. That’s how it is."
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) January 4, 2017
Swinney is speaking from experience. Clemson played to a near draw with Alabama in the national title game last season, and the Crimson Tide was still able to pull out a 45-40 victory.
The Tigers knocked Alabama down, taking a 24-21 lead in the third quarter lead. And Alabama responded with a 24-9 run before a late Clemson touchdown brought the final margin closer.
It’s been rare for a team to have a true knockout performance against Nick Saban and Alabama. Ohio State did it in the College Football Playoff after the 2014 season. Ole Miss did it in 2014 and 2015. Next week, Clemson will try to become the first team to do it in 26 games.
Alabama plays Clemson in Tampa on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.