As Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney walked into the mass of media that had converge upon Clemson, South Carolina Tuesday for his normal weekly press conference something was clearly evidentâthis was not your normal weekly press conference.
With media from every corner of the country descending upon Clemson for the head coach of the No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers this is just like any other weekâexcept it is not. This week it's for the National Championshipâand it is against Alabama.
"This next one, Alabama, it is what it is," Swinney told the media Tuesday. "They're a complete football team in every sense of the word. Great coaches, great depth, great talent, great on offense, great on defense, great on special teams, fundamentally, technically, it just is what it is. But to me this is what it's all about. They (Alabama) represent the best and there's really no way you can argue with that. This is their fourth national championship appearance in seven years."
They have won 15 already and we have a lonely trophy sitting down there in that case, and they've got a family of trophy's in Tuscaloosa-I'm proud to be a part of one of them but this is the way it 'outta be. If you're going to play for a championship then you want the opportunity to play against the best. We're excited about that and are looking forward to competing against them."
Alabama enters the contest against the Tigers with the Heisman Trophy winner and a bevy of play-makers on offense including quarterback Jake Coker.
Coker who entered the season embroiled in a quarterback battle with Cooper Bateman, however that battle was ended in the third game of the season when Coker entered the Crimson Tide's game with Ole Miss in a back-up roll and finished the game with a career high 21 completions on 45 attempts for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
With Henry and Coker in the backfield and an experienced line blocking for them Swinney understands that the Tigers will have their work cut out for them.
"They have the best offensive line we've seen," Swinney continued. "Obviously they've got the Heisman in Henry and he's a whole different animal. Drake (running back Kenyan Drake), he's pretty good too. You know everybody wants to talk about Henry but he's a special player. They've got explosive skill with their receivers...Coker's played great for them. When people have challenged them he's stepped up and made a bunch of plays for them. So, they are just a really good team offensively."
If going up against the Crimson Tide's offensive weapons wasn't enough to make the Tigers stand-up and pay attention the defense that Alabama will have on the field Monday night is certain too.
Ranked No. 2 in total defenseâallowing only 265.79 yards per game this season - the Crimson Tide will pose the biggest challenge to the Tigers offense of any defense faced this season.
Along with the No. 2 total defense ranking the Alabama defense is ranked first in scoring average allowing opponents only 13.4 points per game and first in rushing defense allowing only 70.79 yards per game. Combined with the fact the Crimson Tide rank first or second in 10 other defensive categories it is easy to see why Swinney is concerned.
"Defensively, I think they've got 11 guys that we have in the depth chart, and one is a freshman and one is a sophomore. The rest of them are all seniors and juniors, and just a bunch of talented guys," Swinney continued. "They look a lot like our defensive front last year when we had Shaq (Lawson) as a backup. That's kind of what they look like. Very experienced, very much a complete defensive unit, all veteran players, linebackers are just great players...All the guys in the secondary, Cyrus is a guy that obviously is a dual-threat guy from a return standpoint, as well.
For the Clemson Tigers to come away with their fist national championship in 34 years next Monday night it will have to be done with less preparation than Alabama will have due to classes at Clemson starting back on Wednesdayâmeaning the Tigers will be bound to the 20-hour per week limit put on teams during school. Alabama will not be held to the 20-hour rule since classes in Tuscaloosa do not start until next week after the national championship game.
This is the second year that one team will have the advantage of unlimited practice time, last season Oregon was limited to the 20-hour limit while eventual champion Ohio State was not under that rule. For Swinney, however, that is not an issue because for his Tigers "less is more".
"People make a big deal out of that. First of all, tomorrow and Thursday they've got a little bit more time, Swinney said. "Maybe they can have an extra meeting, something like that. Maybe they can do a walk-through in the morning and maybe a little extra film session. But I think at this point to be honest with you, more isn't better. I kind of believe in the less is more.
"We are who we are, they are who they are. Let's go play the game. Our guys don't go to school on Friday. Neither do theirs. It's all the same Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. That's all the same. This past Sunday, Monday, Tuesday is all the same, tomorrow and Thursday, but you know what, our guys, they're used to going to school anyway. That's what they do.
We just had 48 guys make the honor roll. Had the highest team GPA that we've had in the history of our program, and we just had our first undefeated season in 30-something years. They haven't had any problem balancing that type of stuff, so I wouldn't make a big deal out of that. If they beat us, it's not going to be because they had two extra meetings or an extra walk-through on Wednesday and Thursday, it's going to be because they just beat us."
Regardless of the extra time allotted to one team or another the key for the Tigers to make sure that Deshaun Watson plays well, because when the Tigers will have every chance to walk away from the game Monday night as the champions.
We're going to give it all we've got. That's for sure," Swinney said."We probably won't win if he doesn't play well. You don't win championships without your best players showing up and getting clocked in and performing. That's for sure. He's been there all year long. I know this: Nobody is going to prepare harder. Nobody is going to play with more will to win than No. 4."
For more coverage live from Phoenix and media day be sure to follow @zachlentzTandD for updates and live periscoping from the site of the National Championship