NEW ORLEANS – Top-ranked Clemson held its team’s Media Day on Saturday morning as it prepares to face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in the Superdome. The excitement and anticipation for the third consecutive College Football Playoff semifinal matchup between Clemson and Alabama was fully apparent throughout the day.
The media was able to speak to all coaches and players including head coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback Kelly Bryant, and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
Here is what we heard:
Clemson treated Saturday’s preparation day as if it were a Thursday, as if the team were still in the regular season preparing for a typical Saturday game. Thursday’s always hold an immense amount of importance as the team brings their progressions altogether.
“Today’s a big day in our preparation. It’s what we call Team Thursday where we kind of bring it all together,” Swinney said. “We’ve been prepping for a long time. And I know the guys are starting to get excited. But we really have to start honing in and each player individually, coaches, everybody, really locking it in and getting themselves ready to go. Because this week is moving fast.”
Clemson has had five weeks of preparation for Alabama, but the common dominator in all of that preparation is that the Tigers need to expect a revengeful Crimson Tide squad who will throw everything they can into their game plan to win.
“It’s kind of just what you expect. The best teams in the country playing in the College Football Playoff,” Lawrence said. “And they are one of the best, and we’re one of the best. So we are expect to see each other all the time. And that’s just what happens with the college playoff. You put the best teams in there and the best teams play off against each other.
“You have to put rocks in your pocket. You know they’re going to run the ball. And now they got a passing game, so they’re going to pass it a little bit, too. So we’re kind of just trying to be disciplined and go in with the right mindset where we expect everything. We expect them to throw everything at us.”
That’s just what Alabama has done in the past three College Football Playoff matchups with Clemson. Fortunately, Kelly Bryant who is leading this team has learned a thing or two about overcoming unexpected adversity.
“We had to battle some adversity, but we had to have mental toughness that my Coach [Brandon] Streeter always stresses in our meetings,” Bryant said. “There are going to be some highs and lows of the game. So you have to channel and weather the storm.”
No matter the outcome of Monday’s game, Dabo Swinney is proud of his team and all they have accomplished. There’s no more questioning Clemson to him, the Tigers have already proven their belonging as one of the top programs in all of college football.
“I think that narrative has been changed,” Swinney said. “This is our third playoff in a row. We’ve won the national championship. So none of y’all can say we can’t do anything anymore. I think that was the biggest thing about last year was just validation. Because we had done everything. I mean, we’ve won 61 games, Alabama has won 62 in the last five years. So I don’t know what else these guys have to do to change the narrative.
“I think they’re writing their own script.”