2017 Clemson Football - The Defending National Champions

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    Biggest play in HotRod’s career wasn’t a run.
     
  2. Billdozer

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    The Tao of Dabo Swinney

    CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's entirely possible that the college football world will be forever changed because of a movie that garnered a 35 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    The premise of the 2013 Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson buddy comedy "The Internship" was simple enough: Two middle-aged pals get internships at Google. But the plot isn't important to this story. What's important is that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney -- never one to shy from mediocre comedy -- saw the film and took notice of one of the set pieces.

    Turns out, Google's headquarters has a slide, and Swinney loved it. So now, inside Clemson's $55 million football facility, a stainless steel chute runs from the second floor, outside the coaches offices, down to the first, ending near the team's weight room.

    "I thought, 'If I ever get a new football building, I want a slide,'" Swinney said. "Now I go down it every day."

    Is this stretching things a bit? Swinney thinks so. That's not surprising. Dig a little deeper, though. If there's a coaching equivalent to starting one of the world's biggest companies in your garage, it's Swinney's career path, which has gone from walk-on at Alabama to commercial real estate salesman to national punch line as a novice head coach to national champion.

    Or take a tour of this new football facility, one designed by Swinney to feel like a holistic universe where players can work on their golf swing, catch some shut-eye in a bunk bed, tighten up their résumés, start a charitable foundation, grab lunch prepared by a personal chef or visit Clemson's most recent national championship trophy -- all in the same place, all with football just a few feet away at any given time.

    Or listen to the way Swinney talks about player development. Musk is fond of avowing his SpaceX rocket launches as a way to pay the bills, but his mission statement is to save humanity by colonizing Mars. Swinney's dreams aren't quite so big, but they're just as aspirational. The wins on the field are important, because that's what pays the bills. But his mission statement is to build these players into great men, and who cares if it all sounds cliché and hokey, because, again, this is coming from a man who takes a slide to work.

    "Football, to me, is just the unique opportunity to have a pathway into their lives," Swinney said. "I want them to truly love their experience, and not just be a football player, but to grow and be a person of excellence that just happens to be a good football player, too. And my philosophy is: If we develop them that way, football will take care of itself because they create habits of excellence that carries over."

    Don't believe it? Think it sounds too much like a recruiting pitch? That's fair.

    But think again about that slide. Imagine, for a moment, Alabama's Nick Saban whizzing down it, hands aloft and an enthusiastic whoop echoing through the halls. Or picture Urban Meyer. Or Chris Petersen, Jimbo Fisher, Kirby Smart, Chip Kelly.

    Does not compute.

    "Nick Saban has his process," said Thad Turnipseed, Clemson's director of recruiting and external affairs and a former Saban associate. "Dabo built a culture."

    At this summer's ACC Kickoff event, a reporter polled the players in attendance on which coach they'd most want to play for, assuming they couldn't play for their own. The near-unanimous answer was Swinney. From his dancing to his corny jokes to his motivational speeches, playing for Swinney just seemed like fun.

    "A lot of those guys think they want to play for me until they do," Swinney said.

    In other words, it ain't all sunshine and flowers.

    Go back and watch Clemson's ACC title game against North Carolina from 2015. See what happens when punter Andy Teasdall mistakenly executes a fake punt. Swinney rips the poor kid to shreds on the sideline, rips him some more to the reporter doing a halftime interview, then rips him again when the game is over and Clemson has won.

    Or see how Swinney lambasted the referees during this year's Clemson-South Carolina game. Fans were throwing items onto the field, and Swinney was livid the officials weren't taking action. His diatribe was enough to earn him a flag.

    Or ask Ray-Ray McCloud about his relationship with Swinney. McCloud might be one of Swinney's favorite players, but that doesn't come across in practice. For three years, Swinney has "been in his grits," and McCloud lamented that even during Clemson's bye week this year, the coach rode him hard on every practice snap.

    "Anybody can get up there and tell them what to do," Swinney said. "If you can't articulate why you need to do it, they won't listen. It's a different world. If my coach told me to go run them bleachers, you didn't ask no questions. I turned around and started running until he said stop. Now they'll still run bleachers, but you better be able to tell them why."

    It's fair to wonder about Swinney's "why." For all the talk of players' futures, Swinney is among the most ardent critics of paying college athletes, a position that can seem more than a bit hypocritical.

    Swinney will make close to $7 million annually but said that "professionalizing college athletics, that's where you lose me. I'll go do something else, because there's enough entitlement in this world as it is." He's disagreed with player protests during the anthem, and he has been accused of pushing religion through football.

    The argument starts to fall apart, however, when you note that he encourages staff to bring their kids into the office, because too many of his players grew up without a proper template for how to be a dad. Or that so much of Clemson's success is built on players who failed miserably early on only to emerge as stars after five years of Swinney support. Or that his ethos on amateurism is derived from his own experiences, when he shared a bed in his dorm room with his mother, because they were too poor to live apart.

    Around Clemson, this isn't a hard sell. The players see it. On Turnipseed's desk is a photo he had signed by the stars of the Tigers' defensive line. Each member -- all likely future NFL stars -- offered a personalized inscription. They all offered some version of the same idea. Swinney is honest, he's real, he cares.

    Turnipseed said there are three keys to a great head coach: respect, intelligence and fear. When he took the job at Clemson, he worried Swinney couldn't instill fear. He was just too nice. But what he has come to realize is that, like every other aspect of the program, he does it differently. Saban rules by fiat. He's the boss, follow or be gone. Swinney is like your dad.

    "People are just afraid to disappoint him," Turnipseed said.

    Earlier this month, Tony Elliott was at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta to accept the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. This is the second straight year that one of Swinney's assistants has won, after defensive coordinator Brent Venables took home the award last season. Swinney laments that he's allowed to nominate only one coach per year.

    Elliott's place here means something a little more, though. When Chad Morris left for SMU after the 2014 season, Swinney stayed in house for a replacement -- or, more accurately, replacements. He promoted Elliott, who once played for Swinney at Clemson, and Jeff Scott, a one-time graduate assistant who earned a full-time job on the Tigers' staff when Swinney took over as head coach. It was an odd arrangement that raised eyebrows, like handing the keys to a Ferrari over to a couple of kids on learner's permits, one to operate the wheel and the other to push the pedals.

    "I've never really hired anybody that people thought I should hire," Swinney said.

    In each of their first two years, Clemson went to the national championship game, and lest you assume that was all the handiwork of legendary quarterback Deshaun Watson, this year's offense offered a clear rebuttal. Elliott and Scott completely reinvented their ethos, leaned on a run-heavy game plan and allowed quarterback Kelly Bryant to flourish in Watson's long shadow.

    Swinney hired Turnipseed away from Saban without a job title. Turnipseed's instructions: "Just make us better." He pulled in former Clemson All-American Jeff Davis from the school's fundraising department and put him in charge of player development. The Tigers now have one of the most robust programs in the country. Swinney pushed to fund positions focusing on social media, and it quickly translated into Clemson becoming one of the most followed brands in college football, even though Swinney, himself, doesn't have a Twitter account.

    "I have an MBA," Swinney said, "but my Ph.D. is in people. Everything I do is about relationships."

    In the past month, Elliott spurned overtures from other programs interested in him as a head coach. Programs also kicked the tires on Scott. And, as has become a yearly tradition, Venables shrugged off options to depart, too.

    In the past five years, Clemson has lost just five assistant coaches. Alabama has replaced 17.

    To be sure, that's partly a credit to Saban, whose success has created a market for imitators, and some of that Clemson loyalty was bought by salaries for assistants that make it tough to leave. But the bottom line is that Swinney gives his coaches reasons to stay, and while he'd love to see a coaching tree develop, he has taken another Silicon Valley mantra to heart: It's far easier to keep your own talent than to go looking for someone new.

    "Alabama people, they love Alabama; it's their normal to be focused on the process, the result, and it works," Turnipseed said. "But what Clemson is building, I think we enjoy it more."

    At the nadir of Clemson's 2017 season, on a Friday night in Syracuse, Swinney walked into the opposing locker room in search of his nemesis.

    In the week leading up to the game, Swinney had offered effusive praise of Syracuse receiver Steve Ishmael's game, but to his mind, folks had once again conflated hype with hyperbole, and he didn't want Ishmael to make the same mistake.

    So in the aftermath of one of the season's most stunning upsets, Swinney found himself at the front of the Syracuse locker room, talking to players on the team that had just whipped his program, hoping to convince them this was no fluke.

    "I've never heard of a coach doing that before," Syracuse linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "I've got a lot of respect for that."

    Here's where some people might reasonably assume this is all a load of manufactured publicity and Swinney's image is all carefully crafted public relations.

    Either way, it's working. Swinney knows not everyone has bought in on his culture, but at Clemson, they're sold.

    "That was the No. 1 task I had at Clemson, was to create an attitude of belief," he said. "Everyone else was telling us what we can't do, what's never been done, what we hadn't done. You win on the inside before you ever win on the outside."

    He has won inside. At Clemson, Swinney is king. Outside, however, the tide is turning, too.

    "A lot of guys ask about him," Bryant said. "What you see on TV, that's exactly what you'll get."

    You don't have to believe, of course. But that's what has really separated Swinney from the pack. He's not looking for your approval.

    "I don't need other people to validate what I already know," he said.

    Turnipseed drops a white binder, six inches thick with documents, onto his desk with a thud. This is the owner's manual for Clemson football -- the revised 2017 edition. It's called the "All In Book."

    Each year, Swinney and his staff go on a retreat. Actually, Turnipseed doesn't like to call it that. The term connotes fun, relaxation. This isn't fun.

    "To tell you the truth," he said, "we kind of dread it."

    For five days, Swinney sits in front of his coaches and staff and reads through every page of that binder. There's a discussion of each coach's job description. There's a revised depth chart, looking ahead to the team's strengths and weaknesses. There's the philosophy on recruiting, which involved monitoring about one-third the number of prospective players as a typical school might, but showering that smaller group with attention. There's a calendar for the season that's remarkably detailed. Want to know where Swinney will be on July 24, 2018? It's in there.

    But that's all just a portion of the book. The rest is something akin to the Tao of Dabo.

    "Probably a third of this book is about building men, about character," Turnipseed said.

    Page 1 is topped in bold font with the word "Attitude," and it goes from there.

    The book contains all of Swinney's greatest hits: Iron sharpens iron. Serve a player's heart, not his talent. How you do something is how you do everything. The little things lead to big things.

    Many of these quotes are emblazoned on the walls around the football building, too. They're mantras that get repeated again and again and again and again.

    "You've got to be intentional," Swinney said. "I'm very focused on the culture we have and nurturing that. Whether it's how we discipline, how we recruit, how we staff, how we respond to something great, something bad. It's all of those things."

    None of this is unique. This is what a CEO does. What sets Swinney and Clemson apart is that, they're doing it all a little differently.

    "I've never seen myself as a Silicon Valley guy or anything like that," Swinney said. "I may see things a little different from other people, but I just try to be who I am. I made a decision early on that what works for somebody may not necessarily work for me. What works for me may not work for someone else. You have to be who you are. That's what I've done. I'm constantly trying to get better."

    Last spring, eight Clemson players interned at Adobe, a true Silicon Valley outfit. There, they found a place that felt oddly familiar. Management mingled casually with coders. Brand awareness was at the forefront. The standards were immeasurably high.

    "The culture was the same," said Bryant, one of the Adobe interns.

    Swinney scoffs at the analogy. Clemson is no tech startup, and he's no Silicon Valley golden boy. He got into coaching, he said, because it felt right, and he has always kept doing what felt right to him.

    Still, talk to the folks around Swinney and they see it. The culture at Clemson is something unique in college football, a disruption to the template set by Saban's unquestionable success.

    "I think we'll look back in 25 years," Turnipseed said, "and he will have changed college football."
     
    #3012 Billdozer, Dec 31, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
    clemsonvianj, Al Bundy, HBG and 6 others like this.
  3. Billdozer

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  5. MauldinT

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    The narrative from the SCAR fans was that LSU didn't want to be there
     
  6. Doc Louis

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    They definitely didn't want to be there afterwards either.
     
  7. Billdozer

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  8. tboon6317

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    Still funny that Tajh didn't throw it to noted NFL WR Adam Humphries running wide the fuck open down the other hash.
     
  9. NST

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    Brandon Clear scoring a TD against the North Texas Mean Green in 2010 is part of a Youtube TV commercial.
     
  10. FriendsofJtyler

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    This is a great article:


    Last spring, eight Clemson players interned at Adobe, a true Silicon Valley outfit. There, they found a place that felt oddly familiar. Management mingled casually with coders. Brand awareness was at the forefront. The standards were immeasurably high.

    "The culture was the same," said Bryant, one of the Adobe interns.

    Swinney scoffs at the analogy. Clemson is no tech startup, and he's no Silicon Valley golden boy. He got into coaching, he said, because it felt right, and he has always kept doing what felt right to him.

    Still, talk to the folks around Swinney and they see it. The culture at Clemson is something unique in college football, a disruption to the template set by Saban's unquestionable success.

    "I think we'll look back in 25 years," Turnipseed said, "and he will have changed college football."
     
  11. orangeonmymind

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    Also has Kourtnei Brown touchdown against UNC in 2011.
     
  12. Billdozer

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    How Clemson's culture has become a better process
    NEW ORLEANS — Years from now, who would have imagined that the transformation of college football’s landscape all began with a slide.

    But what it embodies represents much more than a whimsical 2,000-pound passageway to the main floor of Clemson’s sparkling new $55 million football facility, a 15-foot drop that whisks passengers out to the Tigers’ practice fields.

    Instead, it signals a complete philosophical shift, a reversal from the NFL-like corporate structure that has personified the college game of late and restores an emphasis of playing for fun. Rather than creating a feeder system for the professional ranks, the focus becomes using football as a platform to cultivate a generation of leaders.

    For the past decade, Alabama has been the gold standard. The Crimson Tide have collected four national titles during that stretch, and coach Nick Saban’s CEO-like “process” has become the currency of that success.

    But something strangely magical is unfolding at Clemson under the leadership of coach Dabo Swinney these past three seasons. Swinney is a fun-loving, sound-byte generating coach who got the idea for the slide from “The Internship,” a movie about Google’s headquarters. All guests are encouraged to use the slide rather than the stairs because, well, it’s a place where people are supposed to have fun.

    Clemson’s sudden emergence among football’s elite has been unsettling for some of the sport’s bluebloods. Many saw the Tigers’ meteoric rise as the result of a fortunate alignment of the stars mainly attributable to the wizardry of former quarterback Deshaun Watson.

    But Watson’s gone, and here the Tigers find themselves in the College Football Playoffs for the third straight year, entering as the No. 1 seed where they face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

    Nobody can understand this shift better than Thad Turnipseed. He was an instrumental piece of building Alabama’s machine for 12 years, overseeing $200 million of capital improvements before serving as Saban’s director of football external affairs. In other words, he was intimately familiar with what made the “process” tick.

    Turnipseed came to Clemson in 2013 at request of Swinney, a former teammate on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team, assuming first the duty of director of high school relations and now has morphed into a catch-all role that includes running the Tigers recruiting, overseeing the construction of the football facility and external affairs.

    “Basically, Dabo told me my job was to do whatever I could to make us better,” said Turnipseed, a Montgomery native and former Jeff Davis player.

    Many might believe that Clemson has just become Alabama 2.0. While Turnipseed has helped implement some things he learned under Saban, this isn’t just a better mousetrap being built by Swinney. It’s a complete paradigm shift.

    “It’s a totally different atmosphere at Clemson. I’m not saying better, just different. I’ve gone from a process-driven culture to a culture that’s family-driven. We all have a culture and we all have processes, but processes lead Alabama and most programs but culture leads here,” Turnipseed said.

    That culture is created by Swinney. And no one has witnessed the change more than former Clemson All-America linebacker Jeff Davis.

    Davis was a member of the Tigers’ 1981 national championship team before playing seven years in the NFL with Tampa Bay. His 40-year connection with Clemson continues as assistant athletic director for player relations, a role he fleshes out daily in the new facility.

    [​IMG]
    Jeff Davis, former Clemson and NFL player and now Clemson's director of football player relations and external affairs, during the Sugar Bowl Clemson Media Day at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. on Saturday December 30, 2017. (Mickey Welsh / Montgomery Advertiser) (Photo: .)

    Upon entering the Allen N. Reeves complex, the first thing you see is Paw Journey, a 4,000 square-foot space dedicated to aiding players with personal growth, life skills and career development which Davis and his staff oversee.

    “It’s a testament to our commitment about what’s most important why we placed it at the front entrance. We’re about creating men who are leaders, who have a conscience, who have integrity, men who have character, men that understand that ability can get me into the room, but integrity keeps me in the room,” Davis said.

    Davis did not have a father figure during his childhood, and he sees Paw Journey as an opportunity to shape lives of Clemson’s players.

    “I came to a point in my life when I no longer saw my identity as a football player and began to embrace my identity as a man of God. It didn’t mean I wouldn’t have any turbulence in my life. It meant I would know how to address it,” Davis said.

    “If a young man is at Clemson four or five years, he needs to come out of here with confidence and purpose, taking the initiative to make a difference in this culture and impact others for life. That’s what Paw Journey is all about.”

    The emphasis on using football as a means to change young men so they may in turn influence society is intrinsic to the entire Clemson program. Posted on the wall of the coaches meeting room is a three-word edict that serves as a daily reminder to the staff: Love, Serve, Care.

    [​IMG]
    The Love, Serve, Care motto adopted by Clemson coaches. (Photo: Contributed)


    Milt Lowder is a Clemson graduate and a sports psychologist who meets weekly with the Tiger coaches and players. He has been involved with Swinney since 2009 in developing a program that applies the Swinney’s others-oriented mantra.

    “Our coaches, and especially our head coach, has a genuineness and authenticity that lets the players know he really cares for them. One of the the things the slide represents is joy, and Coach Swinney has made this fun. When your head coach enjoys what he does and loves people, then that frees up everyone else to love, serve and care, too,” Lowder said.

    “We all desire in our heart to be a part of something greater than ourselves, and that’s what is happening at Clemson.”

    The family-themed mindset isn’t just a catchphrase. It is intrinsic to the fabric of Clemson football. Families are welcomed at practice, and children are seen daily throughout the football facility. Each year following National Signing Day, the entire Clemson football staff and their families head to Colorado on a ski vacation.

    “That just doesn’t happen elsewhere,” Turnipseed said. “It’s not unusual for our kids to be tossing the football in the end zone during practice. There’s no cussing out there. Dabo believes that if our kids are out there, we tend to watch our mouths. Plus, a lot of these players may not have had a father in their life and we need to give an example of how a father should act.”

    Skeptics may view this as a smartly-veiled sales pitch, a veneer that’s masking reality that the Tigers are no different from other programs. But Turnipseed has been involved with success at a high level long enough to recognize what is going on at Clemson is unique.

    “We’re not self-righteous. We try to do right but the reality of things is that we’re still 100-percent guaranteed to fall short at some point, and we recognize that. But Dabo is first and foremost about loving his players. He treats them like a father would a son. I know it sounds like a cheap expression, but his actions speak louder than his words,” Turnipseed said.

    As the person in charge of Clemson’s recruiting, Turnipseed has revolutionized the Tigers’ approach with Swinney’s blessings. Rather that allocating all of his resources to watching highlight film, more time is devoted to monitoring social media behavior of potential recruits.

    “We rank them by character, and Dabo will not recruit anyone with questionable character. Everybody else is focused on talent, but our goal is to serve their hearts and not their talent,” Turnipseed said.

    “I promise you I’m the only person in America who’s director of recruiting that’s watched less than five minutes of high school film since I’ve been here. My job is to make sure they’re treated right when they get here. When we ask our players why they chose Clemson, almost all of them tell me ‘It just felt real here.’”

    This atmosphere of love, serving and caring became evident during last year’s national championship game. The Tigers were trailing Alabama at halftime, when Swinney reminded his team of why they were there.

    “Dabo adopts a word every year, and last year’s word was love. At halftime he tells them ‘I don’t know how we’re going to win this game, but we’re going to win it because we love each other. That’s all I can tell you guys.’ That sounds corny to some people who don’t get it, but I can promise you it was real,” Turnipseed said.

    Maybe other programs are doing what Clemson is accomplishing but don’t have a visible presence like Swinney to make it marketable. Regardless, Turnipseed sees what is transpiring at Clemson under Swinney’s watch as a calling to change a generation by equipping young men to serve and lead someday.

    “We need that love, serve and care tree to grow, not the process tree. That’s what is going to be right for college football. We’re at a crossroads now. People see what we’re doing and how it changes lives,” Turnipseed said.

    “Dabo’s legacy one day, when we’re dead and gone from here, is that his message is going to get out and change the direction of college football.”
     
  13. a congressman

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  15. TigerTalk

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    And Paul Johnson rejoices!
     
  16. Billdozer

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  18. Doc Louis

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    Alabama?
     
  19. Cutig

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    Bama has 3 losses to ranked teams over that period we were 15-2.

    Ole miss(?), Clemson, Auburn.
     
  20. Billdozer

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  24. HBG

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    (sniff) We're in the final hours of our Defending Champion title. Was an incredible year.

    So who you have tonight winning?

    Me ... I say UGA. Similar defenses but UGA with much better offense. Fromm made good decisions and throws when he needed to last Monday. Running game is legit too.
     
  25. Irish Red Homebrew

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    Im pulling for an asteroid.
     
  26. Papa

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    I think UGA is similar to Clemson. Offense relies on the run (which Bama can neutralize) and their defense is solid. I think it'll be very similar to our game and Bama wins fairly comfortably.
     
  27. Tony Elliott

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    There is no game tonight.
     
  28. Dabo's Dance Coach

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    I got Bama. They'll contain the running game enough to make Fromm have to make plays, and I don't see that happening enough.
     
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  29. 19B

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    This is what I hope the outcome actually is. Bama and Saban are hateable, and suck the fun out of college football, but Bama winning another championship is ho-hum. It's expected. Georgia putting that trophy in their case makes things MUCH more difficult for Clemson, as they're our most direct recruiting competition. We need for Georgia to lose, and it'd be even better if they were embarrassed.
     
  30. cuangler

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    I want Clemson and dabo to be the only team to defeat saban for a natty.

    It's been 6 years since LSU beat alabama, which is the last time anyone beat saban by beating him at his own game. Think Alabama wins tonight.
     
  31. mbnativeson

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    This. I was shocked at the number of Clemson fans pulling for UGA during the Rose Bowl. Personally, I do not care who wins, but a UGA victory cannot help Clemson and I don't think a Bama win changes anything.
     
  32. Papa

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    I think that was more a hatred for Baker Mayfield than support for UGA.
     
  33. OpenMouthKissedaHorseOnce

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    I grew up a Georgia fan until I went to Clemson. My whole family on my dad's side is from Atlanta so really no choice growing up. I know UGA winning hurts us in recruiting. I know it's beneficial for us if Bama wins. But seriously fuck bama and fuck saban and fuck the entire state of Alabama.

    That being said, I don't think UGA pulls this one out. Damn it.
     
    clemsonvianj likes this.
  34. tboon6317

    tboon6317
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    Whenever feasible, one should try to eat the rude.
    RCUSA Original

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    Fuck UGA. My granddad hated the Dawgs, so I hate the goddamn Dawgs. Hope Bama destroys them, although we sure as fuck helped them out injuring the Jennings kid that terrorized KB all night.

    I feel like you can't beat Bama with a stationary QB who has yet to show if he's a dynamic passer or not, but UGA seems to be riding a wave here lately so who the fuck knows.
     

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