Dabo Swinney discusses high-stakes rivalry with AlabamaBy Matthew Speakman | 12/31/2017 11:22am
NEW ORLEANS- It’s a new rivalry forged in parallel success.
Alabama and Clemson have faced each other in the national championship two years in a row, with each team claiming a victory. This season, they will meet again in the College Football Playoff semifinal. It will serve as a rubber match.
While most rivalries feature animosity, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney believes this one is all about mutual success.
“I had a lot of Alabama people come up to me with great respect,” Swinney said. “I mean, they want to win the game. But they had very nice things to say. ‘You guys have got a great team’ and such and such. So, I think there's a lot of respect.”
Clemson currently has the bragging rights, winning 35-31 in last year’s meeting. That game featured a last-second touchdown by wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.
That win proved that Swinney had built a special program. He has a record of 101-29 since taking over the job in 2008. He brought the school its first national title since 1981.
He’s built the program to sustain success even after roster turnover, much like what Alabama head coach Nick Saban has done. He said Alabama fans recognize that.
“At the end of the day, Alabama people respect good football,” Swinney said. “And I think that they know that we've got a good football team, and we're going to compete. Even when we lost a couple of years ago, we're going to lay it on the line. And we know they're going to do the same thing.”
Swinney’s connection to Alabama goes back to his college days. He grew up in the state and played at Alabama from 1990-1992. He was on the team that won a national championship in New Orleans in 1992.
His past with Alabama is something that makes the rivalry special.
“There's just these unique ties, relationships that cross over,” Swinney said. “And we haven't competed against each other a lot. But all of a sudden you've got this three-game series that has just happened at the highest level.”
Alabama and Clemson will meet at 7:45 p.m. on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl. The winner will head to Atlanta for the national championship to face the winner of Oklahoma and Georgia. The winning team will also break the tie and claim bragging rights over the other.
Swinney believes this rivalry will last for the years to come.
“This is kind of a rubber match,” Swinney said. “But, to be honest with you, this is probably not going to be the last one. There will probably be more of these down the road, and I think that's great.”