Clemson has earned a College Football Playoff berth for the third consecutive season, and the Tigers will be facing a familiar opponent in the semifinals.
Clemson (12-1) enters the playoff as the No. 1 seed for the second time in three years and will face No. 4 seed Alabama (11-1) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in New Orleans.
This will mark the third consecutive season that Clemson has faced the Crimson Tide in the playoff. Alabama defeated the Tigers 45-40 in the 2015 national title game before Clemson topped the Crimson Tide 35-31 last season to earn its first national championship since 1981.
“We worked all year to have this opportunity. We’ve earned it,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said following Clemson’s 38-3 win over Miami Saturday night. “We look forward to playing on that stage and putting our best foot forward.”
Clemson is attempting to repeat as national champions for the first time since Alabama did so in 2011-12.
If the Tigers defeat Alabama, they will face the winner of the Rose Bowl matchup featuring No. 2 seed Oklahoma (12-1) and No. 3 seed Georgia (12-1) in the national title game. The national championship will be played in Atlanta on Jan. 8.
Even though Clemson is technically the defending national champion, that is not the mindset the Tigers will have entering the playoff, Swinney said.
“We’re the attacking champs. We’re attacking for another one. That’s been our mindset all year,” Swinney said. “We’re not defending anything. I mean, like I said earlier in the year, if we had the same team back (then yes), but we’ve got a different team. We’re attacking to try to go win another one.”
There was some controversy as far as who would join Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia in the playoff, but the Crimson Tide ultimately got the nod over Ohio State, despite not making it to the SEC championship game.
Either way the game would have been a rematch from last year’s playoff as the Tigers dominated Ohio State 31-0 in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
Several Clemson players said following the win over Miami that they were hoping to be the No. 2 seed so that they could travel to California, but the Tigers are still thrilled to have an opportunity to win another national title.
“Personally 95 percent of the team wanted to go to California, I mean who doesn’t? That’s California,” linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “But it will be awesome to play in New Orleans and play in the Sugar Bowl. That’s a blessing, and we’re excited to go down there. … We can’t wait. “
Clemson enters the playoff having won six consecutive games after falling at Syracuse in mid October. The Tigers have been playing particularly well as of late as their past four wins over Florida State, The Citadel, South Carolina and Miami were by 17 or more points.