Take a bow, Dabo.
Better yet, dab on ’em.
Perhaps the most charismatic college football coach in the country, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is making the argument that he might just be the best coach in the country.
The only one who might have an argument otherwise at the moment is the man whose team the Tigers will face in the national title game for the second year in a row, Alabama’s Nick Saban.
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Clemson put an utter beatdown on decorated coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night, winning the Fiesta Bowl, the second semifinal of the College Football Playoff, 31-0.
The Tigers held the Buckeyes to 215 total yards, limited them to a 3-for-14 third-down ratio, allowed just nine first downs and caused three turnovers. On offense, Clemson piled up 470 total yards in a balanced effort with 265 through the air and 205 on the ground.
Simply put: The Tigers completely dominated.
While there’s plenty of ways to win football games, the reason Clemson cruised into the championship game can be attributed to one thing: preparation.
Even early on when the game didn’t start the way they would have preferred – with Deshaun Watson throwing an interception inside Clemson territory on the first offensive drive – the Tigers kept their poise. After Ohio State missed a field goal, wasting the opportunity, Clemson went down and put in a trey of its own.
The Buckeyes provided another gift on the ensuing possession, missing another field goal. The Tigers proceeded to punch in a couple touchdowns to take a 17-0 lead into halftime. In the second half, Ohio State never got anything going and the rout was on.
So what exactly happened in what many – including myself – figured was going to be a close game? With all things equal – talent level, star power, quality of competition during the season and time for preparation – you can only point to one thing: the ever-eccentric coach on the Clemson sideline.
Dabo will dance, he’ll rant, but most of all, the guy will flat out coach. Often, bowl season is a good barometer for judging just how good respective coaches are. They get extended time to watch film, draw up plays and get in practice time. When a game is this one-sided – and nothing crazy, like a lopsided turnover ratio (Ohio State had two and Clemson three) or an incredible individual performance, happens – you’ve got to give the game ball to the coach.
Yet, Swinney was quick to credit his players – Watson in particular, calling him the best player in the country – even though the quarterback didn’t have his best game Saturday. Watson finished 23-for-36 for 259 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
But it was a team effort that propelled the Tigers back into the championship game, where they’ll have a chance to avenge a 45-40 loss to Alabama last year. And that score proved to be a lot closer than what many thought it would be.
The Crimson Tide were pretty impressive in their semifinal win, beating Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl earlier Saturday, and now will turn their sights on becoming back-to-back champions.
Meanwhile, Clemson will look to crash the party. While few teams have the collective talent Alabama does, a win over the Crimson Tide would take the Tigers – and Swinney – to the peak of college football.
It will be fun to see Swinney and Saban stare each other down with all the chips on the table once again.
“I’m just glad we’ve got a shot. That’s all you can ask for,” Swinney told an ESPN reporter after the game.
And that might be all the Swinney and the Tigers need. We shall see.
With holiday tournaments in the book, area high school basketball teams will get back to local play this week. … The Coastal Carolina men’s basketball team has a pair of games this week, playing at Texas State on Monday (8 p.m.) and hosting Arkansas State on Saturday (4:30 p.m.). … The CCU women’s basketball team has two home games this week as they host Little Rock on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Arkansas State on Saturday (1 p.m.). … The Clemson men’s basketball team has a pair of games this week, at home against North Carolina on Tuesday (7 p.m.) and at Notre Dame on Saturday (3 p.m.). The South Carolina men’s basketball team has two games this week, a road game at Georgia on Wednesday (7 p.m.) and home contest against Texas A&M on Saturday (TBA). … The PGA Tour returns to action this week with the SBS Tournament of Champions from Thursday through Sunday in Maui, Hawaii. … The NHL’s Winter Classic – featuring the Chicago Blackhawks at the St. Louis Blues – is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday (NBC). … The NFL playoffs begin wit the Wild Card round Saturday and Sunday. … There are four college football bowl games scheduled for Monday. The Outback Bowl (Florida vs. Iowa) is at 1 p.m. (ABC), the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan vs. Wisconsin) is scheduled for 1 p.m. (ESPN), the Rose Bowl (Penn State vs. Southern California) is at 5 p.m. (ESPN) and the Sugar Bowl (Oklahoma vs. Auburn) is set for 8:30 p.m. (ESPN). … ATP Tour tennis gets back to action beginning Monday with the ATP Aircel Chennai Open, ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open and ATP & WTA Brisbane International. … WTA Tour tennis returns to action beginning Monday with the WTA Tour ASB Classic, WTA Shenzhen Open and ATP & WTA Brisbane International.