It’s not even halfway through the regular season and already ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated and others are contemplating the idea of a third Clemson vs. Alabama national championship game.
Currently, Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the country in both the Associated Press and the Amway Coaches Polls, a position it has held since the start of the season, while the Tigers are No. 2 after starting the year ranked No. 5 in the preseason polls.
While the Crimson Tide has destroyed its five opponents by an average margin of victory of 37.6 points, Clemson has also looked impressive, including three wins over top 15 teams in the process and beating its five opponents by an average score of 25.6 points.
On Tuesday, Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel was asked about the possibility of meeting the Crimson Tide for a third straight year and if he wanted to play them again. As we all know, Alabama beat Clemson by five points in the 2016 College Football Playoff Championship Game, while Clemson won last year’s national championship matchup by four points.
“It would be cool. It would be the tiebreaker,” O’Daniel said. “They won one, we won one. So I feel like a third game would kind of shut down every other doubt that any fan base may have.”
But trying not to get too far ahead of himself and staying focused on what is in front of him and his teammates, O’Daniel quickly got back into Dabo Swinney mode.
“But I’m not worried about that too much right now,” he said. “As you know, it’s just a one-game season each week.”
Tigers don’t care if they are No. 1 or No. 2. O’Daniel was also asked if it bothered him that Alabama was ranked higher than the Tigers in the polls, despite Clemson’s three top 15 wins over Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech.
“Nah, it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “It is what it is. I don’t really even pay attention to that stuff because at the end of the day, we still have to go and play and those rankings don’t matter until after the season anyway.”
Speaking of the next opponent. Swinney came out in his weekly press conference and was adamant that no one overlook how good Wake Forest is, including the media. The Tigers host the Demon Deacons this Saturday in Death Valley at noon.
“If there is any inclination that people like to create that (Wake Forest) is not a legit contender for our division, you have no idea what you are talking about,” Swinney said. “So let me set the tempo for the media right there. This is a dadgum good Wake Forest team we are getting ready to play.”
In listening to O’Daniel speak, it seems like Wake (4-1, 1-1 ACC) has the players’ undivided attention, especially quarterback John Wolford.
“He’s good. He is a very crafty player. He is always looking to make a play. He can run the ball and throw the ball on the run,” O’Daniel said. “You have to respect his game when he gets the ball out quick and has good receivers to throw to. You have to respect him on his feet and when he is in the pocket so that definitely presents a challenge.”
Wolford is averaging 189.4 yards per game through the air and has a passing efficiency rating of 152.1. He has 8 touchdown passes to 1 interception through five games.
“They are comfortable with who they are,” O’Daniel said. “They know their culture, what they stand for and how they play. Last year we didn’t play the quarterback that’s starting this year. So on film it’s definitely a different Wake Forest team than what we played against last year.
“You can tell they’re playing with confidence. They went down to the wire with Florida State so they are coming in here with confidence. They are a very disciplined team, they’re very technically sound so it’s definitely going to be a challenge.”
Swinney thankful to have Spence. Kicker Alex Spence was thrown into the fire prior to the Boston College game after starter Greg Huegel tore his ACL after being rolled up at the collision of practice on Oct. 20.
Spence went for 4-for-5 on extra points against BC and did not kick a field goal. In last week’s win at Virginia Tech, he made his first career field goal, a 23-yard kick, while missing one from 41 yards out. He also was 4-for-4 on extra points.
“I have a great appreciation for Alex Spence,” Swinney said. “Can’t tell you how many times he’s been out at night kicking by himself … I’d love nothing more than for him to go on and have a great season for us.”