Clemson University

Respect for Clemson’s chances gaining steam

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson previews title game

Says Deshaun Watson: 'We're one of the best programs in the country and we can compete with anyone.'
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Says Deshaun Watson: 'We're one of the best programs in the country and we can compete with anyone.'

Coach Dabo Swinney and the Clemson football team arrived in Tampa on Friday afternoon with plenty of momentum – and growing respect.

There will be a lot of money bet on Monday night’s College Football National Championship game, and a lot of it is going to be bet on Clemson.

“People are really gravitating toward the Tigers,” said gaming writer David Purdum of ESPNChalk.

The line is holding steady, with Alabama a 6.5-point favorite. But some books opened as high as 8. The over/under total is 51.

Purdum said Clemson’s dominant 31-0 victory against Ohio State in the semifinal changed a lot of minds.

“There’s been a dramatic shift,” he said. “There were some early, what they call lookahead, point spreads up in Vegas on potential championship game matchups and Alabama was favored by 11 over Clemson before the semifinal games.

“I also think Clemson playing second (Alabama beat Washington in the first semifinal) helped a lot. That’s the last thing the public saw. The books know that. Everyone was just overwhelmed with how impressive they were. Some people kind of downplayed Alabama’s victory, questioned how impressive they were.”

Clemson fans cheered, took cellphone photos and high-fived Swinney and players as the Tigers departed from Memorial Stadium around 1 p.m. on Friday.

“We’re going to shock a lot of folks,” Brett Hicks of Mauldin said. “Our guys have the experience; they are seasoned. I don’t think Alabama has seen an offense like ours. We’re going to win this thing.”

The forecast for snow and ice over the weekend did not affect the football team’s travel, but the Clemson band was not as fortunate.

The Tiger Band had planned to leave for Tampa by bus at 5 a.m. Saturday, but moved up its departure to 6:15 p.m. Friday because of the weather forecast.

American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United all waived change fees for Friday or Saturday for flights going to, from or through Southeast airports expected to be impacted by the storm, including Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).

Purdum said the Clemson-Alabama game will be the most heavily bet college game this season.

“Right now at several of the Las Vegas sports books, there is more money already wagered on the national championship game than there is wagered on the four NFL playoff wildcard games combined,” he said.

Tim Dominick and The Greenville News contributed to this story.

The Clemson Tigers football team leave Memorial Stadium as they head to Tampa, Fla., to face Alabama in the national championship game.

National championship

Who: Clemson (13-1) vs. Alabama (14-0)

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Line: Alabama by 6 1/2

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