Smith says Clemson not worried about being underdog to LSU

Smith says Clemson not worried about being underdog to LSU

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Smith says Clemson not worried about being underdog to LSU

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Dabo Swinney is a master at finding ways to motivate his team, and the Clemson head coach has had no problem doing that this season, using criticism from the media and playing the disrespect card to help keep his team fired up and playing with a chip on its shoulder.

Well, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas have given Swinney more “free fuel,” as he likes to call it, heading into the Jan. 13 national championship game against LSU. Clemson (14-0) is a 5- to 6-point underdog to LSU (14-0) right now depending on the sportsbook.

This fits the script for the Tigers as they are accustomed to feeling like the underdog, but Clemson senior linebacker Chad Smith says that is not something they are really worried about.

“I mean, I guess you could say we’re pretty comfortable with it,” Smith said. “We don’t really look too much to like the outside noise, whether we’re an underdog or whether we’re the team to beat in a particular game. I mean, we just focus on what we can control, focus on our preparation, and LSU is a great team. They’re here for a reason. They’ve got a great offense, great defense, all-around team and program, so it’s going to take a lot from us in our preparation to be able to have an opportunity to beat LSU in the championship. But it’s definitely going to be a challenge.

“So I mean, it just goes back to our preparation. We can hear all the outside noise or we can really focus on what we can do, have a narrow focus, put those blinders on, get ready to go back to work here soon in the next few days, and prepare ourselves to the best of our ability to have that chance to be national champions again.”

If Clemson is going to win its third national championship in the last four seasons, it will have to get it done in enemy territory as the national title game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans figures to be a de facto home game for LSU.

There was also a pro-Ohio State crowd for Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, but it did not prevent Clemson from escaping with a 29-23 victory.

“The game is won on the field,” said Smith, who was named defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl after tallying a team-high 12 tackles. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the ratio is because last game it was definitely like 70 to 30 Ohio State. So it’ll be interesting to see. But I know we’ve got some of the best fans in the nation, and they’ll do their best to travel out to that game for sure.

“But we don’t really look at it too much about having to do with much of the fans or who’s going to be in the stands. Really it just goes back to our preparation and our focus and how we execute on the field. But it’ll be a fun environment either way. It’s going to be cool playing LSU in Louisiana, in New Orleans, so it’s going to be a fun game.”

While the environment factor may favor LSU, the experience factor is on Clemson’s side as the ACC’s Tigers are getting ready to play in their fourth national championship game in five years, while this will be the SEC’s Tigers first national title game appearance since 2011.

“I would say that’s a little bit of a factor, being able to be in that moment before,” Smith said. “I’ve been blessed to be a part of all four National Championship appearances all the way back to my redshirt year. … But yeah, it’s drawing back on those experiences and how those guys before us prepared and how they approached the game, and then we still have players on this team that have played in that moment last year, guys like Trevor (Lawrence) and Nolan Turner and Tanner Muse and those guys who have been in that moment. Being able to draw back from their experience and how they approached that game is going to be important for the young guys because we have such a young team, to be able to rely on those older guys and how they go about their preparation. And really it doesn’t change. We treat it just like any other game. Yeah, it’s the biggest game on the biggest stage, but we wouldn’t have been able to get there if it wasn’t for our preparation in the previous games.

”So we’ve just got to approach it the same, with the same focus, with the same intensity that we prepared for each and every game, and go out there and execute what we have game planned.”

Clemson is going back to the national championship game after once again winning the Fiesta Bowl over Ohio State. Get your official Fiesta Bowl champs gear right here!

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