Clemson players gathered as a team to watch the College Football Playoff selection show Sunday afternoon knowing they would almost assuredly face either Ohio State or Alabama in the semifinals of the playoff.
The Tigers dominated Ohio State 31-0 last year in the Fiesta Bowl and split a pair of nail-biter games against the Crimson Tide in each of the past two national championship games.
Yet, despite the Buckeyes potentially providing less of a challenge, Clemson players were hoping for another matchup with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
“I wanted to play them again. You can ask the guys, we wanted to play them again,” Tigers linebacker Kendall Joseph said Wednesday. “The chance to have three times going against them would be awesome, so we’re excited.”
The Tigers are getting their wish.
Alabama enters as the No. 4 seed for the matchup, which will take place on Jan. 1 in New Orleans.
Even with the Tigers being the defending national champions and entering as the No. 1 seed, Alabama is favored by 2.5 points and is considered by most to have the top program in college football.
“They’re looked at as the top dog, and they earned that spot,” Joseph said. “Even with all our success, they still have that ranking to them. Just to be able to play them again and knock them off again, that would be great.”
If Clemson can earn a second consecutive win against Alabama, some might feel the Tigers will have passed Alabama, especially if Clemson can go on to win the national championship against either Oklahoma or Georgia.
“In some people’s eyes we will, and in some people’s eyes we never will just because we’re Clemson,” Joseph said. “I guess they’ll never want to give us that respect that they want to give to the Oklahomas or the Ohio States or the Alabamas, those historic programs, but we’re definitely working at it. I just think it would be another huge win on our resume.”
But first Clemson must take care of business in New Orleans.
The Tigers were going to have a rematch either way, but they are looking forward to facing the more prominent program.
“We didn’t really know who we were going to get, but now that we know it is Bama, I’m really excited, and so are a lot of guys on the team,” defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “Whichever team it was going to be, Bama or Ohio State, obviously we’ve got history with both of them. But to go against Bama we kind of feel like there’s no excuse now for anybody to say we haven’t beat the best teams in the country. Hopefully, we get that chance to go out there and beat Bama and, hopefully, go on to the national championship, so we’re really excited for this opportunity.”