Alabama Clemson

Alabama Clemson: It is a pity, because this is the fourth year in a row, when the best student football project stood out in the student football playoffs. Last year it was in the semi-finals. This time, Alabama-Clemson IV has once again decided on the national championship.College Football Playoff championship game: Alabama vs. Clemson preview Click here To Watch Live Stream.
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Clemson’s Christian Wilkins will end his fourth and final season with the Tigers the same way he has ended each of the prior three: with a showdown against Alabama, and for the third time it comes in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T (Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).

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“I guess the only comparison is the Rocky movies,” he said. “I know after three it’s a trilogy. But what’s four?”

It’s a good question, though it’s doubtful Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have spent much time researching it. The on-field questions, however, deserve plenty of attention.

Sure, this is a matchup between two teams that know each other pretty well by now. Alabama came back to beat Clemson for a nationalchampionship to cap the 2015 season. Clemson returned the favor in 2016. Last season, the Tide topped the Tigers in the Allstate Sugar Bowl before upending Georgia for another title. And there are plenty of holdovers from those three, from Wilkins to the coaches to the undeniable heavyweight fight comparisons. But a lot has changed, too, and so we’re digging into the details — and hopefully avoiding too many Rocky allusions — to find out who has the advantage in Part IV of college football’s biggest rivalry.

Alabama X factor: Safety Deionte Thompson will have his hands full with all of Clemson’s receivers, but Hunter Renfrow is another animal. Thompson can ask his predecessor, Minkah Fitzpatrick, about that. Fitzpatrick, a first-round pick and perhaps the best defensive back ever to come through Tuscaloosa, was torched by Renfrow in the team’s three previous playoff matchups, where he caught a combined 22 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns, including the winner in 2016. This game — barring an 18th year of eligibility — will be Renfrow’s last chance to hurt the Tide, and it’s up to Thompson to stop him on those pivotal third downs and red zone opportunities where he has been particularly effective.

Junior DB Deionte Thompson speaks with Paul Finebaum about his relationship with Nick Saban and the pressure to live up to past Crimson Tide defenses.

Clemson’s X factor: Renfrow seems the obvious answer here given his history against Alabama, but that success means he’ll already have the Tide’s attention. So instead, turn your attention to the defense, where Isaiah Simmons blossomed into the Tigers’ leading tackler during the regular season and will be tasked with slowing down Alabama’s slot receivers in the national championship game. Dorian O’Daniel was a key to Clemson’s defense last season at the nickel/strongside linebacker spot, and Simmons has done admirably filling that hole in 2018, but this will be his biggest challenge of the season.

Alabama’s breakout star: He gets overlooked, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and fellow wide receiver Jerry Jeudy dominating the postseason awards circuit, but Henry Ruggs III could be a real problem for a shaky Clemson secondary. The sophomore from Montgomery, Alabama, can take the top off a defense with his speed. This season, he has averaged 16.4 yards per catch. All told, he has 45 receptions for 738 yards and 11 touchdowns. If the focus shifts too much to the Biletnikoff Award winner, Jeudy, don’t be surprised if Ruggs shows off his wheels and hands against the Tigers.

Clemson’s breakout star: Justyn Ross was already a known commodity even before demolishing Notre Dame’s secondary in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, but this game comes with even bigger stakes and an even bigger spotlight. Then there’s the little matter of Ross being from Alabama and a top Tide target on the recruiting trail. The freshman has been a force in a backup role for Clemson all season, with 847 yards and eight touchdown grabs, but if he has a big game against his home-state team, you can be sure it’ll put his name into headlines well outside of Clemson.

Clemson’s Ross erupts for 2 TDs & 100+ yards in 1st half

Justyn Ross racks up 137 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first half of the Cotton Bowl as Clemson leads Notre Dame.

Matchups to watch

When Alabama has the ball: If you’re looking for a weak link on the Clemson defense, it’s the secondary. And rest assured that Tanner Muse & Co. are going to be tested by Alabama in ways that neither Notre Dame nor any other team the Tigers faced this season were capable of. We already mentioned Ruggs, and everyone already ought to know about Jeudy and his 1,176 yards and 13 touchdowns. But it’s more than only those two. It’s DeVonta Smith, last season’s title-game hero who finally looked healthy again against Oklahoma when he caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. It’s also Jaylen Waddle, the lightning-fast freshman with 823 yards and seven touchdowns this season. And lest we forget, it’s also Irv Smith Jr., an NFL-caliber tight end, who has seven touchdowns this season as well and could be a big-time red zone target Monday in Santa Clara, California.

When Clemson has the ball: The Tigers led the nation in rushing between the tackles, averaging nearly 7.4 yards per carry. For the season, Clemson gave up only four sacks from pass-rushers coming up the middle. Those are good signs but hardly enough to make anyone confident going against the likes of Quinnen Williams. Alabama’s defensive front, led by Williams, is stout, and it has been largely successful containing Clemson’s running game in the three most recent meetings. The difference this time is that Trevor Lawrence, while athletic, is not a run-first QB who can make up for a quickly collapsing pocket or a lackluster night from his tailbacks. That means there’s plenty of pressure on the Tigers’ Sean Pollard, Justin Falcinelli and John Simpson to hold their own in the trenches. Lawrence’s quick release takes some of the pressure off, and Travis Etienne has vowed a better performance than last season’s Sugar Bowl from the run game, but Williams is the biggest obstacle Clemson has faced all season at the point of attack.

Alabama’s biggest lingering question: Will Christian Miller be available? And if he and his 8.5 sacks are able to take the field against Clemson, how close to 100 percent will he be? The senior is the defense’s most consistent outside pass-rusher, and he didn’t look so good the last time we saw him, limping off the field against Oklahoma because of a strained hamstring. With Terrell Lewis sidelined all season recovering from a torn ACL, there aren’t many other proven options for Alabama to turn to if Miller can’t be effective in this game. Maybe veteran Jamey Mosley steps up. Maybe, given the fact that Lawrence isn’t as much of a threat to take off and run, Saban will consider using uber-athletic inside linebacker Dylan Moses in more pass-rushing situations. Or maybe it’s one of the young guys like Eyabi Anoma or Cameron Latu who steps up and makes an impact. Whatever the case, someone needs to put pressure on Lawrence lest he be given the time he needs to carve up the secondary.

Clemson’s biggest lingering question: How good is the secondary? After shutting down Notre Dame, defensive coordinator Brent Venables addressed the issue in his postgame speech. “The weakness of this defense?” he asked. “No, you’re the heart and soul.” That’s a lot of belief in a unit that struggled badly against Texas A&M and South Carolina, and the challenge of Alabama’s passing game dwarfs those matchups. Still, Muse, Simmons, Trayvon Mullen and others have heard enough of the criticism that they’ll be playing with something to prove. A strong performance against Tagovailoa would certainly quiet the critics, and there’s a good chance it would translate into a nationalchampionship for the Tigers.

Alabama player under the microscope: It’s Jalen Hurts and his role in the trick plays that have come to define this series and how Hurts adds yet another dimension to that part of Saban’s playbook. Because whenever the backup quarterback is on the field, it has to make defensive coordinators go crazy. If he’s in for Tagovailoa at quarterback, you can’t know if he’s going to drop back and pass, or run the read-option where he’s so effective. On the other hand, he has played some wide receiver, too, which presents its own set of problems. There, he can be motioned into the backfield in a jet-sweep action, or he can stay out wide and either run a traditional route downfield, or pull back, catch a backward pass and attempt a double-pass or run the ball. Throw in the fact that he could also set up in the shotgun alongside Tagovailoa and you’ve got even more possibilities for which to account.

Clemson player under the microscope: The dominance of the guys to his left and right take some of the pressure off senior defensive tackle Albert Huggins, but with Dexter Lawrence suspended following a failed drug test for a performance-enhancing substance, there’s no doubt Huggins is shouldering a big load. Lawrence is a massive body and can control the line of scrimmage on his own. That’s too much to ask of Huggins, but Clemson’s D needs both to make Tagovailoa uncomfortable in the pocket and slow down Alabama’s downhill rushing attack. Huggins won’t have to do it alone, but he’ll need to hold his own.


Tagovailoa’s top concerns: We’ll probably never know how healthy Tagovailoa is after undergoing surgery to repair a high ankle sprain a month ago. He said he thought he’d be 100 percent for the Orange Bowl, but then he got to Miami and put the number between 80 and 85. Then he looked great, throwing more touchdowns (four) than incompletions (three) before leaving the game with his ankle wrapped and in a walking boot. So who knows? The only thing we can say for sure is that his health is still worth monitoring. No one doubts that the Heisman Trophy runner-up and his 41 passing touchdowns will play Monday, but don’t be surprised if Clemson’s defense tries to rough him up early to see just how comfortable he is planting on his back foot and scrambling when the pocket collapses. As we saw against Georgia in the SEC championship game, a dinged-up Tagovailoa is a mortal Tagovailoa capable of making mistakes.

Lawrence’s top concerns: It’d be easy enough to suggest inexperience is the biggest issue for Lawrence, who has yet to have a typical “freshman moment.” But the guy has never seemed the least bit flustered this season, and there’s no reason to think that’ll change here. Instead, the bigger worry is how he’ll be used in the run game. He ran more than he had all season against Notre Dame, and Clemson’s biggest offensive success against Alabama in the past was spurred by Deshaun Watson’s mobility. Will the Tigers risk hits on Lawrence if it means forcing the Tide D to consider his legs as a weapon, too? No one will confuse Lawrence with either of his predecessors — Watson or Kelly Bryant — to go against Alabama in the playoff, but he’s athletic enough to do some damage, and if it can neutralize the pass rush just a bit, Lawrence’s ability to read a defense and get the ball out of his hand quickly could translate into a big day with his arm.

Alabama wins if: Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris and Najee Harris combine for 200 or more rushing yards. Why? Because while Alabama is certainly capable of winning a shootout on the arm of Tagovailoa, it’s probably not the safest route to a national championship. Just look at last week’s Oklahoma game and how Jacobs & Co. were able to take the air out of the ball, limit the Sooners’ possessions and preserve the victory. The final score — Tide 45, Sooners 34 — looked closer than the game actually was because the running game made the clock Oklahoma’s enemy. Control the ball and it will allow Alabama to dictate tempo and give its defense time to rest against a talented Clemson offense with Lawrence, Ross and Etienne.

Clemson wins if: Tagovailoa spends some time on his back. No one will argue with Tagovailoa’s talent. He’s incredible. But he also has been awfully comfortable for much of the season, and that has made things easy for this Alabama offense. But if the Clemson secondary can hold up in coverage and force Tagovailoa to his second or third options, that should give the pass rush enough time to make him more than a bit uncomfortable. Do that enough times, and perhaps Tagovailoa gets impatient, perhaps he gets hit and loses the football, perhaps it’s enough to rattle him just a tick. In a game this evenly matched, that might be all it takes.

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson for the national title looks very good on its own. But ESPN’s MegaCast presentation of the College Football Playoff National Championship will provide more unique viewing options than ever before. Overall, 17 presentations will be available across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, SEC Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN3, ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio. All presentations are available on ESPN App.

In addition to the traditional telecast on ESPN featuring Alabama vs. Clemson on Monday (8 p.m. ET), Monday Night Football Film Room, Field Pass, BlimpCast, and TechCast are headlining the new offerings, with Command Center, Sounds of the Game, DataCenter, SkyCam, and Hometown Radio among the presentations returning this year.

Here’s what you need to know about the many ways in which you can watch Alabama vs. Georgia:

Watch/listen: Download the ESPN App | WatchESPN | TV | Radio

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Where can I watch and listen to the CFP National Championship?

Alabama vs. Clemson from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is airing on ESPN starting at 8 p.m. ET on Monday. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit will call the game with Tom Rinaldi covering Clemson and Maria Taylor on Alabama. Watch

ESPN’s traditional telecast will be accompanied by a number of alternate presentations for the game. Each presentation is available on the ESPN App.

Field Pass (ESPN2 and ESPN App): Field Pass will offer free-flowing commentary of the CFP National Championship, anchored by Adam Amin and Steve Levy who will roam the sidelines of Levi’s Stadium. The two play-by-play announcers will call the action from the unique vantage point while simultaneously being joined by a rotation of ESPN analysts, notable personalities and celebrities throughout the game. Watch

Monday Night Football Film Room (ESPNEWS and ESPN App): Monday Night Film Room will house ESPN’s MNF trio — Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, and Booger McFarland — along with college football and NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay. The four football minds will breakdown the game in real time the way active players and coaches do leading up to and following each game. It will be presented with limited commercial breaks. Watch

Command Center Telecast (ESPNU and ESPN App): A split-screen with simultaneous multiple camera views, which could include the main ESPN camera angle, the SkyCam, High SkyCam, and All-22 among others, and isolated camera feeds of both Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Enhanced statistics and real time drive charts supplement the game action. The traditional telecast’s call of the game will be part of the presentation. Watch

Sounds of the Game (ESPN Classic and ESPN App): Fans can enjoy the natural sounds of Levi’s Stadium as if they were sitting inside. Fans will watch the ESPN traditional game telecast, sans commentators, and hear the complete pregame on-field festivities, including band performances, the public address announcer and referee calls. The presentation’s audio will be amplified with dozens of microphones positioned throughout the stadium. Both school’s halftime band performances will also be featured. Watch

Thinking Out Loud (SEC Network and ESPN App): Thinking Out Loud the popular weekly show during college football season on SEC Network, makes its CFP National Championship debut. The trio of Marcus Spears, Greg McElroy and Alyssa Lang bring hijinks, highlights and hilarity, while offering astute analysis and reaction throughout the game. They will be joined by other guests during the game. Watch

Hometown Audio (ESPN3 and ESPN App): A partnership with Learfield (Alabama) and JMI Sports (Clemson) pairs the ESPN telecast with the hometown radio call of the two teams. Broadcasters: The Alabama radio team is Eli Gold, John Parker Wilson, Rashad Johnson and Chris Stewart; the Clemson radio team is Don Munson, Rodney Williams, Reggie Merriweather and Tim Bourret. Alabama and Clemson

Blimpcast (ESPN3 and ESPN App): SportsCenter’s Matt Barrie and Elle Duncan will be inside the Goodyear Blimp for the full duration of the game. The unique viewing option will be tri-box, showing the duo in one screen, the game telecast in another, and the view from the blimp in the third — with the entire presentation accompanied by the two college football fans commentary throughout the duration of the game. Watch

TechCast (ESPN3 and ESPN App): TechCast will spotlight the best of ESPN’s innovation throughout the game, as 12 different camera views will be showcased in smaller boxes, surrounding a split screen view. The split screen views will rotate between the 12 options throughout the game. Among the vantage points include: SkyCam, High SkyCam, RefCam, PylonCam, AllCam, Marker Cam, and many more. Watch

DataCenter (ESPN3 and ESPN App): On-screen graphic content ranging from analytics, real time drive charts, win probability updates, curated social media reaction and more. ESPN Radio’s call will be part of the presentation. Watch

SkyCam (ESPN3 and ESPN App): A continuous feed of the camera that maneuvers above the field of play and often provides a behind-the-offense look at game action. Watch

High SkyCam (ESPN3 and ESPN App): Similar to the SkyCam, but several feet higher, offering an alternate view well above the action. Watch

All-22 (ESPN3 and ESPN App): Watch the game the same way players and coaches study film, with a vantage point high above the field of play. The angle allows for the 22 players on the field to be seen at all times providing the ability to distinguish how plays develop. Watch

ESPN Deportes and ESPN App: Lalo Varela and Pablo Viruega call the game for ESPN Deportes with Kenneth Garay and Alex Pombo for ESPN Deportes Radio. Watch

ESPN Radio and ESPN App: Sean McDonough calls the CFP NationalChampionship on ESPN Radio, joinied by Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe and Ian Fitzsimmons. The radio broadcast is available throughout the country on more than 400 ESPN Radio stations, the ESPN App, ESPNRadio.com, SiriusXM, Apple Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.

National Championship 2019

National Championship 2019: Tonight, starting at 8 p.m. ET, ESPN will broadcast the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers. If you don’t have plans to watch from a bar or restaurant and also don’t have access to traditional cable, fear not: ESPN, the channel where the game will be broadcast from, also has ESPN+, the company’s streaming service. Today, you can start a free trial on the service, which will cost $4.99 per month after the trial ends.

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Alabama has a 2-1 edge in the series and a 2-1 edge in NCAA titles in the playoff era, and 2018’s dominant 14-0 campaign has made the Tide a six-point favorite. But Clemson is riding the kind of hot streak that’s caused the air surrounding the Tigers to combust, and if there’s any team who could throw a wrench into Bama’s plans for perfection, it’s Dabo Swinney’s unit.

Back in September, Clemson played a closer-than-expected game against a solid Syracuse game, winning 27-23. The Tigers apparently took this as an insult to their football skill, because they spent the next three months burning their opponents to ashes. In the nine games since, the closest any opponent has gotten to Clemson was in a 20-point loss. The team’s average margin of victory in that span was 37 points.

Alabama, on the other hand, has dealt with more of a struggle — although Nick Saban’s team had to play a top five Georgia team in its conference title game and not the random event generator that is Pittsburgh football. The Tide needed a comeback win to claim the SEC championship, then held off Oklahoma’s comeback in an 11-point win to punch their ticket to (/checks notes. Ugh, really? /signs) …Santa Clara.

That leaves the world in the familiar position of watching Clemson-Alabama for the fourth straight year. And even if that’s a stale matchup, jaded fans can take comfort in the fact these teams turned in a pair of instant classics the last two times they met with a national title on the line.

Two undefeated powerhouses meet for a chance to be crowned champion in the 2019 College Football National Championship game!

Live from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, it’s the highly-anticipated rematch of the 2017 title game. Nick Saban’s squad will attempt to avenge their 2017 loss to Clemson and make it two titles in a row, while the Tigers look to capture their second championship in three years. Who will leave Santa Clara as the undisputed national champion? Let’s find out!

He’ll need to be just as good when he goes up against Tagavailoa Monday night. The Alabama quarterback spent most of 2018 as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner before a light slump and Kyler Murray’s torrid finish forced him to runner-up status for college football’s highest honor. The big Hawaiian answered any doubts about the status of his injured ankle by carving up Murray’s Sooners in the semifinal, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns in an 11-point win.

Between them, Lawrence and Tagavailoa combined for 645 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and zero interceptions in the first round of the College Football Playoff. Each will have to face a much stronger defensive challenge in the national title game, but Monday’s championship could come down to which side can dial up the more powerful aerial attack.

Lawrence was the highest-rated recruit in Clemson history, and he hasn’t needed much time to leave his mark in South Carolina. He’s developed into one of the nation’s top passers in just his first season on campus, compiling a 27:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a true freshman thanks in part to an offensive line that’s only allowed him to be sacked 11 times. That includes a 327-yard, three-touchdown, zero-interception performance in the playoff semifinal against Notre Dame.

The second reason is worse: The people in charge of college football don’t really care and don’t have to pretend to care. When the time came to stage a title game for TV, they picked a nice spot for a corporate junket — we’ll go to wine country the weekend before! WINE COUNTRY! — but a terrible place for college football. They’ll have some of those patron-cooking skyboxes and shuttle service to the stadium and will blame fans for not showing up, if they have the energy to think about it at all.

CFP Final 2019

CFP Final 2019 : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CFP Final 2019 Live Stream Free Tv Channel In Hd

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

Clemson vs Alabama

Clemson vs Alabama : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

CFP Championship 2019

CFP Championship 2019 : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

College Football Playoff

College Football Playoff : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

Alabama vs Clemson

Alabama vs Clemson : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

clemsonvalabama

It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

Clemson tigers vs Alabama crimson tide

Clemson tigers vs Alabama crimson tide : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

 

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”

Alabama v Clemson

Alabama v Clemson : It is Monday morning at San Jose’s SAP Center. The home of the Sharks, at the moment, is the home of the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, who are still more than 48 hours away from their College Football Playoff Championship showdown. In rink-side seats, Terry and Donnie Whitcomb sit shoulder to shoulder.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH NOW

The brothers are dressed in opposing football jerseys as they watch their teams go through the media day motions on the floor below. Terry, dressed in the crimson No. 12 of Joe Namath, says he started school at Alabama in 1964, when Namath led the Tide to a national title. Donnie, dressed in the orange No. 4 of Deshaun Watson — or, wait, he says it’s also for Steve Fuller — was a freshman at Clemson two years later. That fall, on Oct. 8, 1966, the Tigers traveled to Tuscaloosa for the first time in 30 years.

“We beat their ass,” Terry brags, correctly using the Upstate South Carolina pronunciation of “ay-ice.” “We always beat you, right, Donnie? Then we stopped playing.”

“For pretty much our whole lives, Clemson and Alabama never played,” Donnie adds, turning to his brother. “Now we play all the time — every January like clockwork, don’t we?”

“Yep,” big bro responds. “And we’re still gonna beat y’all’s ay-ice.”

Monday night (8 ET, ESPN) marks the fourth straight College Football Playoff matchup between Clemson and Alabama and the third in the national title game. The past five seasons, they have been the two best programs in college football, and that is inarguable. The winner of this latest round in their heavyweight bout might very well seize the upper hand in the “best team of college football’s most competitive era” debate. That is, at least until the next time they meet. Which will probably be one year from now.

“We do our work two different ways, but we always seem to end up right back here together in the big games, don’t we?” Todd Bates says. These days, he’s the assistant coach who oversees Clemson’s vaunted defensive line. But back in the day, he was the anchor of the D-line and team co-captain at Alabama. “I don’t care what team you root for, I think everyone knows that when these two teams in these two uniforms take the field together, that’s as good as it gets. That’s the biggest game in college football.”

Clemson versus Bama has indeed become the embodiment of the modern game. Both universities spend more than $110 million annually on athletics (Alabama is closer to $160 million). Both have dramatically increased their annual football recruiting budgets over the past decade. Both do their work in football facilities that are perpetual construction sites (Clemson’s still-new $55 million football building famously includes a giant slide, putt-putt course and whiffle ball field). Their records the past four seasons: Clemson 54-4, Alabama 55-3. The difference comes from Clemson’s two playoff losses to Alabama against Bama’s one playoff loss to Clemson.

In 2019, college football will celebrate its 150th season in no small part by looking back on the sport’s great, old rivalries: contests that have been played for a century or more, built on a foundation of annual clashes held in classically concrete on-campus coliseums. Highlights of the greatest moments in those series will be recalled via grainy newsreel footage and scratchy AM radio play-by-play calls.

Clemson versus Bama has none of that. The résumé of this rivalry has been written almost entirely within the tiny, five-year timeline of the College Football Playoff, with every game played in sparkling, neutral-site, state-of-the-art NFL stadiums and broadcast around the world via Ultra 4K HD Megacasts against a background of chattering social media commentary.

“You can’t work at Alabama or at Clemson and not have a real appreciation for the history of college football. I mean, look at where I go to work every day. It feels like a museum,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban says. “But it really is remarkable that these two teams haven’t played all that much. Really, hardly at all until now.”

Monday night will be only the 19th time the Tigers and the Tide have met on the field. That’s one fewer than Clemson has played Davidson College and two games shy of Alabama’s all-time series with Howard.

The first CFP meeting — Alabama’s thrilling 45-40 victory in the 2016 National Championship — was only the teams’ second contest since 1975. Prior to Alabama’s victory in September of ’75, they played four in a row in 1966-69 (Alabama won them all), four times in the 1930s (Alabama won all those too) and five times between 1900 and 1913. In the all-time series, Clemson won the first three games, in 1900, ’04 and ’05. The Tigers then lost the next 13, a slump that started on Oct. 16, 1909, Howard Taft’s first fall in the White House, and didn’t end until they won the CFP title game rematch on Jan. 9, 2017, a couple weeks before Donald Trump was sworn into the job.

Despite the sparseness of head-to-head competition, these two classically Southern teams have a football history that is intricately intertwined. Of Clemson’s past nine head coaches, five played for Alabama, including the school’s holy orange triumvirate: Frank Howard, Danny Ford and current head coach Dabo Swinney. Alabama’s perpetually bronzed legend, Bear Bryant, was Howard’s roommate when they played together for the Tide in the 1930s. Bryant mentored Ford when the 30-year-old former Bama player found himself Clemson’s head coach in 1978. Ford was thrust into that job when boss Charley Pell left Clemson for Florida. Pell also played for Bryant on the 1961 national title team. Swinney learned the game from Bryant disciple Gene Stallings as a player on Alabama’s 1992 national championship squad. The Alabama athletic director during those years was Hootie Ingram, who worked under Howard at Clemson and succeeded him as head coach for three seasons, trademarking the famous Tiger Paw logo before returning to his alma mater to work with Bryant.

If Alabama fans don’t believe that’s enough to call Clemson a rival, then perhaps this will do the trick: Clemson football was founded in 1896 by professor-turned-coach-turned-university-president Walter Riggs. He molded the new team, mascot, colors and even the layout of the Clemson campus based on his experiences at his alma mater, Auburn, aka Alabama’s archenemy.

“The ties run so deep between the two schools, it’s crazy,” Swinney says, revealing that he met Frank Howard — the man whose name is on the Death Valley rock that Swinney touches before leading his team down The Hill on autumn Saturdays — when he was 10 years old. In his office, he keeps a photo of Howard eating dinner with his family. “My wide receivers coach at Alabama was Woody McCorvey, who was at Clemson with all those great teams in the 1980s and came to Alabama with Coach Stallings. Woody is my right-hand man now [Clemson’s football administrator]. [Associate head coach] Danny Pearman played at Clemson and came to Alabama with Woody. A bunch of guys did that. If we start listing all the assistant coaches who have gone back and forth, we’ll be here all night. I always knew about Clemson, but those guys really taught me about it. They loved it. So I knew there had to be something to it. I just needed to see it for myself.”

The coach smirks a little as he continues. “The truth is, there are a lot of closet Clemson fans in Alabama and always have been. That was easy to pull off when we never played. Now we’re making life a little rough on them. We’re making them have to choose. And that’s fine by me!”

For example, Swinney’s “second father,” Gene Stallings, likes to drop in to visit his apprentice from time to time. When he does, he dons an orange Clemson jacket as he stands on the sideline at practice. Likewise, Danny Ford used to enjoy wearing the 1973 national title ring he earned as an Alabama assistant coach under Bryant alongside the ’81 ring he won as Clemson’s head coach. No one had a problem with those wardrobe choices six years ago. “If I do it now, people are like, ‘Well, what the hell, Danny?!'” says Ford, who still lives near campus. “It all changed when we started playing each other all the time.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a house divided,” says Clemson safeties coach Mickey Conn, who played with Swinney at Alabama, as did defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall. He grins as he continues, looking over at Hall, who is eavesdropping nearby. “I would call it many houses divided.”

“That’s the truth,” Hall responds. He was the leading tackler of the Tide’s legendary ’92 defense. This is his first season on his old teammate’s Clemson staff. “I won a ring at Alabama. Now I want to win one at Clemson. I love my alma mater. I always will. But there will be no split loyalties Monday night.”

Maybe not on the sideline or in the Conn, Hall, Bates and Swinney homes. But the homes and hometowns of some of the players might be in for an internal tug-o-war. Three players on Alabama’s roster hail from South Carolina, and six Clemson players grew up in the Yellowhammer State.

“My mom and my dad are Clemson people, and I grew up wearing Clemson colors, but I’m in crimson now,” says Stephon Wynn Jr, who grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, the town everyone drives through to get to games in Death Valley. His father, Stephon Sr., played in that stadium as a tight end for the Tigers. “I know they are rooting for me on Monday night, but some of my other friends and family, I don’t know, man.”

That’s the same song recited by many others, such as James and Jacob Edwards, twin brothers from Birmingham suburb Vestavia Hills. In fact, five of the six Alabama-to-Clemson defectors are from the greater Birmingham area, just like the head coach who recruited them. “Most of our family supports us,” says James Edwards, placing extra emphasis on the word “most.” “We’ve managed to convert most of our family. The friends have been harder to bring along.”

Edwards says he made the switch to orange early in his high school days, when Clemson caught his eye with its on-field performance against, yep, Alabama. The story was the same for Alabama freshman punter Skyler DeLong, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, which sits just below the North Carolina border. “Growing up where I did, you either liked Clemson or South Carolina, but I didn’t root for either one,” he says. Alabama caught his eye, in no small part because of its success against his least favorite of the two state schools. “Now I hate Clemson. I get sick of hearing about them. I want to beat them so bad, just so I go home and talk smack to my friends I grew up with.”

One of those friends is Clemson placekicker B.T. Potter. DeLong and Potter were middle school soccer teammates. When both were cut from their opposing high school soccer teams, they took up kicking. They had the same kicking coach, so they worked out together. As they worked out and their teams played separate schedules, they talked a lot of smack. When graduation came last spring, they chose opposite sides of college football’s greatest new rivalry. This week, the freshmen have been trading smack once again.

As with all things in this new age of Clemson versus Alabama, it comes with considerably higher intensity.

“I think that in order to truly prove that you are a great team, you have to have someone who will push you there,” Saban says Saturday as the Whitcomb brothers watch and listen. “I think about the greatest teams I can remember, and they almost all had someone who was right there with them. That’s why you play or coach football or any other sport: to face the best.”

Ali had Frazier. The Yankees had the Dodgers. Magic had Bird. The Beatles had the Rolling Stones. Alabama has plenty of SEC rivalries to keep it on its toes. But it’s the Tide’s newest nemesis that takes them to the next level each and every January.

“Iron sharpens iron, right?” Swinney says. “Well, if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence with Alabama, you better be pretty dang sharp. I don’t know about making history and all that stuff, but if we have the kind of game Monday night that we’ve had on this stage before, then I think one day people will have to look back on Clemson versus Alabama as one [of] the great ones. I hope we give them the kind of game that makes people have to say that.”