DALLAS – Second ranked Clemson is gearing up for the Cotton Bowl Classic with No. 3 Notre Dame on Saturday in AT&T Stadium. The game is part of the College Football Playoff Semifinals with the winner advancing to the CFP National Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif., to face the winner of No. 1 Alabama and fourth-ranked Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Last season the Tigers played in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1959 in the CFP and now they are gearing up for their first Cotton Bowl Classic since January 1, 1940.
One of the beauties of the College Football Playoff is it allows for teams to compete in bowl games that break the traditional mold against programs it doesn’t normally face because the games are not affiliated with the traditional conference ties.
Notre Dame’s loose ties with the ACC in football allowed for these two teams to meet in the 2015 regular season for the third time and now they will compete in a neutral venue unfamiliar to both programs.
Clemson won the 1940 Cotton Bowl Classic 6-3 over No. 11 Boston College in its first bowl game in program history as well as the first top-20 win for the Tigers. Notre Dame is 5-2 in the game with its last trip to Dallas in 1994, a win over Texas A&M.
Tiger head coach Dabo Swinney enjoys the history of his games and came to the coaches’ press conference at the Omni Hotel Friday in Dallas stocked full of information on the game. He is excited to play in a game the program hasn’t been to in 78 years.
“Well, it’s pretty crazy… 1939, Clemson’s first bowl, played Boston College. And they had a shoot-out, 6-3. So did they even throw the ball in ’39,” Swinney joked. “I don’t know if Knute Rockne had invented the forward pass or not.”
Irish head coach Brian Kelly responded, “I think it may have been three safeties,” he joked.
Swinney saw pictures of Clemson legend Banks McFadden in Dallas for the 1940 Cotton Bowl wearing a cowboy hat in pictures with coach Frank Howard. He also showed the team a history video about the Cotton Bowl so they would glean the significance of the game to college football.
“It’s awesome for Clemson to come back to the place that we were in our very first bowl game. It’s been so long,” Swinney said. “With all the bowl affiliations and all that stuff, I don’t know that we would have gotten back here without this unique situation, the way it worked out,” he said.
Clemson kicks off Saturday at 4 p.m EST against the Irish in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.