Clemson receiver Justyn Ross has been expecting this game for a long time.
The Phenix City, Ala., native, who chose the Tigers over in-state Alabama on National Signing Day about 11 months ago, has known all along that his two finalists would likely face off in the College Football Playoff.
Now the top two programs in college football and the two programs that Ross considered will play for the national title on Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.
“I kind of knew coming in we were gonna be playing Alabama eventually,” Ross said following the Cotton Bowl victory. “Either it was going to be this playoff game or the championship game.”
Ross was back home in Alabama for Christmas leading up to the College Football Playoff and he saw several people that would have liked to have seen him stay home and attend Alabama.
One of those people was Alabama freshman linebacker Markail Benton, who was a teammate of Ross at Phenix City High. Even though both teams were still a win away from reaching the national title game they were already looking forward to the matchup between Clemson and Alabama.
“We were arguing for about 10 minutes at one point about who was going to win. It’s time to put all the talking aside now,” Ross said.
It has been nearly a year since Ross signed with Clemson, but he still hears from people that are upset that he didn’t stay home and play for the Crimson Tide.
That talk continued around Christmas time when Ross was home from Clemson.
“It was different because they know I had a chance to play against Alabama. But it was still fun going home,” Ross said. “It’ll be a real good game. Best on best playing against them.”
While Ross upset some people back home when he chose the Tigers instead of Alabama, he has no regrets about the decision. The 6-foot-4 receiver had the best game of his young career in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame, catching six passes for 148 yards and two scores. He is now producing at Clemson the way he hoped to.
“Me picking Clemson, it just had a different culture. Obviously Wide Receiver U, but it was just a different culture at Clemson,” Ross said. “Just the stability that Clemson has. They don’t really have coaches leaving in and out like that, having to learn different stuff every year. It’s just the culture and the family type culture.”
Ross would love nothing more than to end his freshman season with a national championship win against Alabama.
“It’s going to be a lot of emotions on the field in Cali, but you’ve gotta go out there and ball.” Ross said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Who: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Line: Alabama by 6