It’s less than a week before the college football national title game in Tampa, Fla., and Clemson is a little more quiet than usual.
Students return Jan. 11, two days after the Tigers play for it all against Alabama. The timing’s probably for the best, as it’s likely the lecture halls would be heavy on empty seats.
“Everybody and their mother is trying to find a ticket,” said senior Tyler Crowe, who was downtown Wednesday afternoon.
Susan Farish, owner of Tiger Town Tavern in the middle of downtown Clemson, said that timing has actually caused her a little trouble. Most of her staff are students, and in preparation for what she projects as a packed house Monday night, she asked some to come back early from winter break.
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Her establishment was packed to capacity, a line outside, last year for the fist Tigers-Crimson Tide title tilt. She said people came in starting at 1 p.m. to hold onto good seats and booths (some even took turns holding down a spot).
Last year gave the town a test run of how to get through a Tigers title game. The Tiger Town Tavern added several TVs over winter break to get ready for the title game and is well-stocked for the occasion.
Farish wasn’t too concerned about students getting rowdy in the street outside if the Tigers win. She added there’s been a buzz since Clemson shut out Ohio State last Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl, an extra bit of confidence.
Some of that comes from last season, seeing the Tigers go toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide and push them to the edge.
The sentiment was shared by Katie Manley, a local college student who was manning the counter at longtime Clemson apparel store Mr Knickerbocker. She said that has seemed to translate to business.
“We’ve sold a lot more Clemson stuff here this week,” Manley said. “A lot of people have come in and said that they’ve got natty tickets and they’re going.”
Outside the store, Natalie Smith, a Clemson fan and childhood friend of Tigers starting wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, was looking for something extra in orange, and she seemed to best personify how much more confident the Tiger faithful are.
“I think we’re a lot more ready this year against Alabama,” Smith said. “And I think Nick Saban’s a lot more worried about us this year.”
Folks in town seemed confident Clemson would boast a better crowd than last season, when the Tigers and Tide faced off in Phoenix.
Farish said people were still contacting her, looking to see if she could help them with tickets. This didn’t happen a season ago with a game most of the way across the country.
On Monday night, the establishments along College Ave. will be packed. Perhaps the night ends with the sad scatter it saw last January, or perhaps the fans pour into the street looking for someone to hug or giddily sing “Tiger Rag” with.
Crowe, like a large contingent of Clemson students, has a family tie in all this. His father watched the 1981 team claim the school’s lone championship.
He described a potential win with words such as fantastic, and called it something he’d remember the rest of his life.
But what would it really mean?
“Everything,” Crowe said. “It would make all that student debt worth it, for that football facility.”
Who: Clemson (13-1) vs. Alabama (14-0)
When: 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Line: Alabama by 6 1/2