No 'crazy confidence' for the Tigers, just 'overwhelming effort'
While some fans of the Clemson Tigers may have told you they believed the Tigers would win the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide, few would have thought they would have done so by 28 points.
The Tigers ended the 2018 season with a 44-16 blowout of the Crimson Tide that even head coach Dabo Swinney did not see coming.
"Oh, that would probably be crazy confidence (to think the Tigers would win by 28 points," Swinney said. "I don't think that we went into the game thinking we were going to beat Alabama by four touchdowns. It just kind of went that way. It was our night, and we got control of the game, and sometimes when – I've been on both sides of it. Sometimes when you get momentum rolling like we were able to get it and just the energy all channelled in the right direction, it can kind of be insurmountable, and that's what happened. I mean, it was just kind of an overwhelming collective effort by our group."
The majority of the media and Alabama players and coaches have wanted to make excuses for the beatdown of the Crimson Tide.
Alabama running back Josh Jacobs said that the Crimson Tide were “mentally fatigued” to head coach Nick Saban claiming that playing in the mighty SEC, a league in which they won all 12 games by more than 22 points, caused his team's downfall, "We had a tough road to hoe to get the championship game, and we just didn’t finish like we wanted to. I think there’s a lot of good things that we can learn from that.”
However, for Swinney, the Tigers beatdown on the night of Jan. 7 had nothing to do with the Crimson Tide and everything to do with the Tigers and the way they prepare.
"First and foremost, you don't make it about Alabama," Swinney said. "You know, I think that that's – I've been at Alabama. I spent 13 years there, so I can't tell you, there was a lot of times as a player I walked off the field and I wasn't sure that we were better than that team, but they thought we were better, and we won a lot of games when we got off the bus.
"I think for our program, it's something that's been important to me from day one is to make it about us. It's not about the opponent, and it's not a disrespect to any opponent, but we really – we try to treat everyone the same. I mean, we don't practice any different for Alabama than we do for Furman, and that's not – that's certainly not a disrespect, it's just that's what we do, and that's exactly what Coach Saban at Alabama does, too. I can tell you that right now. He focuses on his team."
It is that way of preparing that Swinney believes has prepared his team for the success--winning two national championship in the last three season and making four straight trips to the playoffs.
But for Swinney, it was a journey that started when he first took over the Tigers' program.
Before that, the Tigers were an up and down program that would defeat a top 10 Miami team one week only to lose the following week at Duke.
"And I think any championship-level program, that's the mindset that you have to have, because – and that was when I first got the job, that was one of the things I told our guys back in '09 was listen, we can't – we've got to lock in on the things that we control. You have to win in your mind first," Swinney said. "To do that, you have to have a routine that you believe in, and every game is the biggest game, and you play to a winning performance. It shouldn't matter who you play. Oh, well, this week we're playing Florida State so let's really practice hard. Let's meet really with some intention and purpose. We just don't look at it that way."
Whether the fans like hearing that Furman, Wofford or Wake Forest is the biggest game of the season, there are few that will argue with the success that mindset has brought.
":So you certainly know that there's some – some of these games the margin for error is much smaller," Swinney said. "I told them... it's going to be a few plays. But we just try to keep it all about Clemson, prepare to a standard, and that's allowed us to have a lot of consistency."