The biggest difference this year compared with the previous two Clemson-Alabama meetings is the absence of Watson, who almost rallied Clemson in the 2016 championship game and then engineered the winning drive last year. After Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide slipped to fifth in the rankings, behind Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and undefeated Wisconsin. Clemson-Alabama 3.0 kicks off within a few hours. A likely top-10 pick in the National Football League draft if he foregoes his senior season, the New Jersey native does it all for Alabama's defense, from covering receivers to blitzing and playing close to the line of scrimmage against the run. The last time the Crimson Tide were an underdog was at Georgia on October 3, 2015, the teams' last meeting.
In back to back years, Dabo Swinney has proven he's every bit Nick Saban's equal in talent evaluation and development, preparation, motivation and game-planning.
"I'm not saying they should not go, I'm saying the committee's going to say that they should go". Each year, you lose a part of your team. You have seniors who have done a good job for you, and you have guys who take on new roles the next season. "We've only done that twice in the past with teams, but three times in a row is a very special, kind of a one-time thing".
Neither Alabama nor Clemson, of course, is in need of rivals.
Fans were upset about the late starting time for the Sugar Bowl.
The Crimson Tide imposed its will during the Sugar Bowl matchup against ACC foe Clemson. Clemson has its state rivalry with SC and its divisional rivalry with Florida State, with the Tigers having won the past three in the series after once losing 11 straight when Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992.
"I thought, for sure, they would pick Ohio State", Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. "A lot of people want to pull for Clemson, and this is an uncomfortable situation, because they're a little conflicted, so it's a unique rivalry from that standpoint". And they're just not [one of the four best]. "At the end of the day, this is my team".
First, Payne picked off Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant when a hit forced a weak throw.
The game turned with Clemson trailing 10-6 and driving in the third quarter for what looked like a go-ahead score. Bryant has deftly stepped in for Deshaun Watson, bringing consistency to the position, but the physical-running signal-caller has yet to see a defense, ranked No. 1 overall and second against the run, like this.