Matt Connolly

Dabo, Tigers revel in being underdogs again

Clemson players and coaches downplayed the fact that the Tigers were an underdog to Ohio State all of last week.

They said there was no disrespect, and the common phrase used was, “When two good teams are playing, one of them has to be the underdog.”

While that statement is true, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was glad Clemson was the underdog against the Buckeyes, and is glad the Tigers are the underdog heading into the championship game against Alabama.

As he ran into the Tigers’ locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium following the beatdown of Ohio State, he proudly exclaimed, “Best part about next week is we’ll be underdogs again. One more time.”

Swinney made it clear with his postgame comments that he does not believe his team gets the respect it deserves for its accomplishments over the past several seasons.

Clemson has one of the most impressive resumes in the country since 2009. The Tigers have five ACC Atlantic Division titles, three ACC Championships, two College Football Playoff appearances, six consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins and five consecutive bowl victories.

Entering the playoff, Clemson had been an underdog in five consecutive postseason games. The Tigers were 5-0 against the spread in those games and 4-1 overall with the only loss coming last year against Alabama.

Clemson had played better down the stretch than Ohio State and had arguably the best player in the country on its side. Still, the Tigers were the underdog for the sixth consecutive postseason game against the Buckeyes. For the sixth consecutive time Clemson proved Las Vegas wrong.

“This is our fifth bowl win in a row. We’ve beaten Ohio State twice, LSU and Oklahoma twice. Sooner or later people are going to realize that Clemson is an elite program that has done unbelievable things on and off the field,” Swinney said.

“We've been ranked up there in the top five for a long time, but still seems like we're always the underdog when we get in these big-type games for whatever reason.”

The Tigers use being the underdog as inspiration. “It’s always been like that, but that just kind of gives us a chip on our shoulder,” defensive tackle Carlos Watkins said. “It just gives us a little more motivation. Respect is earned. We’ve got to go out there and prove ourselves.”

Tigers center Jay Guillermo added, “Any time a No. 2 team is the underdog you’re going to think about it a little bit. It brings a little bit of disrespect along with it.”

Clemson is the underdog for the seventh consecutive postseason game heading into next Monday’s title game. Be careful betting against the Tigers because Swinney and his team are right where they want to be.

National championship

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