TAMPA, Fla. — Clemson’s Dabo Swinney doesn’t want to back into anything when it comes to winning a championship, so the former Alabama player and assistant is happy to be facing his alma mater, as crazy as that might seem.
“My entire life, nothing has been easy, and this is the way it ought to be,” Swinney said Saturday at the College Football Playoff Media Day at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa.
“These are two great teams — these are the two best teams, and to be honest with you, I don’t think there’s another team out there that’s capable of beating Alabama,” Swinney said. “I think we’re probably the only team that has a chance.
“If we’re going to get it done, then we ought to have to play and beat a team like Alabama.”
The Crimson Tide (14-0) are a 6.5-point favorite over the Tigers (13-1) in Monday’s 8:17 p.m. game at Raymond James Stadium (TV: ESPN).
Alabama beat Clemson in last year’s College Football Playoff championship game, 45-40, but Swinney said this year’s Tigers are better than last year’s.
“I don’t think we finished well last year … we were a team on fumes toward the end of the season,” Swinney said, referring to last year’s Tigers team. “Defensively we were top-heavy. Our first group was very good, but everybody behind them were just freshmen, and so we didn’t have a lot of competitive depth.
“We’ve got more guys defensively that are functional, more guys that can go play, and it’s been that way all year. We’re a healthier team.”
Clemson is coming off a 31-0 win over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl last week.
The No. 2-ranked Buckeyes represented the highest-ranked opponent the Tigers have beaten in program history. It was also the first time Urban Meyer had been shut out by an opponent in his 194 games as a head coach.
Swinney knows none of that matters come Monday night.
“We want to be the best and we’re getting a chance to play the best,” Swinney said. “They’ve got the swag, they’ve got the belt.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney at College Football Playoff media day in Tampa
Posted by SEC Country on Saturday, January 7, 2017