Why Alabama’s Nick Saban is impressed by Clemson, Dabo Swinney

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Brian Kelly talk College Football Playoff

Clemson and Notre Dame will play in Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29
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Clemson and Notre Dame will play in Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has proclaimed multiple times throughout the 2018 season that his Tigers are just a part of the “rest of y’all” behind No. 1 Alabama.

“Back when I was a player we kind of had the big-time bus and then the R.O.Y. bus – the rest of y’all. It is kind of Alabama and the rest of y’all,” Swinney said when the first College Football Playoff rankings were released in October. “We are just kind of glad to be on the R.O.Y. bus right now and still have a chance.”

While Swinney has downplayed Clemson’s success in 2018, in reality the Tigers are closer to Alabama than to the rest of the college football world.

Clemson is back in the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive season and has made the playoff four out of five years. Alabama is the only other team in the country that has made at least four appearances in the playoff as Nick Saban’s team has been in the playoff all five years.

Still, Saban, who is widely regarded as the top coach in college football and one of the top coaches in college football history, is impressed by what Swinney has done at Clemson.

Swinney, Saban, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly participated in a news conference prior to the College Football Awards show Thursday night in Atlanta.

“There’s a lot of books written about how to be successful. There’s not many written on how to stay successful,” Saban said Thursday night. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the fact that they’ve been able to do it on a consistent basis and be here over and over and over and over and play at that high level all the time and not have any complacency in the program.”

Clemson and Alabama have played in the College Football Playoff each of the past three years. If the Tigers beat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and Alabama defeats Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl the teams will meet for the fourth consecutive season.

Saban pointed out in Atlanta that just as Alabama has had a great year, so have the Tigers.

“I think Clemson has got an outstanding program, an outstanding team. I think Dabo does a really, really good job on a consistent basis. They have good players, but their players really play well,” Saban said. “They’re well-coached. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They execute well. It’s a difficult preparation when you have to play against them. And I think they’ve been one of the most consistent, dominant teams throughout this entire season.”