COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Clemson has been on this grand stage before.
This time, the defending national champions will be making their third national title game appearance in four years on Jan. 13 when they take on LSU at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
However, it’s what Clemson hasn’t done that makes this game even more intriguing. Dabo Swinney and company are looking to become the first team in College Football Playoff history to win back-to-back national championships. Plus, the Tigers have a chance to do so while finishing with the program’s 30th consecutive win.
“It would mean a lot to the guys before us that laid it on the line that allowed us to be in this position that we are right now, to be highly ranked and all the work they put in to get us here,” said Clemson defensive back K’Von Wallace. “In previous years like UCF...they went undefeated, but they didn’t make it this far. I credit it to the guys that were before us to help us be highly ranked to get us here.
“With this program, it means a lot to win back-to-back [national championships] for this program, a lot of people would say this era would be like the Alabama era years previous the way they’ve been so consistent and so dominant. We want to leave that mark on this program that Clemson can be up there. Clemson wants to be that school that gets all these five-stars and four-stars and all these No. 1 players and No. 2 players in America, knowing that this program is here to stay.”
Having championship experience certainly helps the Tigers know what to expect before Monday’s big game in New Orleans and playing in arguably one of the most anticipated games in college football history.
“It’s still really exciting,” said Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. “I think just the biggest thing is I’ve been there before… I know what to expect more, but it’s a different place, it’s a different team, we’re a different team. So, everything’s different, but just having that experience of playing in a national championship definitely is something that you take a little comfort in knowing that you kind of know what to expect.”
Being in this position can be thrilling for fans, coaches, and student-athletes alike, but with this position comes the pressure to succeed. Nevertheless, Clemson doesn’t see Monday’s championship game as a pressure-packed situation.
“I would say more excitement than pressure,” said Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. “We’re more excited to try to make history than opposed to feeling like it’s something we have to do. It’s a great opportunity that we’d love to take advantage of, obviously. Just from the beginning of the season, Coach Swinney always told us we’re a preseason number one, but that means nothing at all. This is a brand new team. Last year’s team did that. So, it doesn’t really have anything to do with us.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’re 14-0 opposed to 29-0. But he also preached to us that 30-0 is what it was going to take to get it done. We weren’t going to get any gimmes. If we lost a game, we knew we would’ve had no shot whether it was early in the season or late in the season. 30-0 is what we knew it was going to take, but we think of 14-0 opposed to that.”
Clemson will take on LSU on Monday at 8 p.m. in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.