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Clemson’s Dabo Swinney thinks only Clemson can beat Alabama

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According to Dabo Swinney, there is one team in college football that can beat the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Fortunately for Swinney, it’s the Clemson team he brought to Tampa to compete in Monday night’s National Championship game.

To be honest with you, I don’t think there’s another team out there that’s capable of beating Alabama,” Swinney said. “I think we’re probably the only team that has a chance.

You know, that’s – and we do, we’ve got a solid chance. But we’ve got to go toe to toe. Whoever is (Muhammad) Ali, whoever is (Joe) Frazier, it’s two great guys battling it out. That’s the way it is, and I love that. It’s never been easy. My entire life, nothing has been easy, and this is the way it ought to be. If we’re going to get it done, then we ought to have to play and beat a team like Alabama.”

Last year, Clemson lost a 45-40 game to Alabama.This year, Swinney thinks his team is better.

I think we’re better than we were last year,” Swinney said at Media Day for the teams. “We were a really good team. I don’t think we finished well last year. We won, but we were a team on fumes I felt like toward the end of the season. We were finding ways to win, and there’s a lot to be said for that, but we were a tired football team going into that ACC Championship Game, and defensively we were very top-heavy. Our first group was very, very good, but everybody behind him was freshmen, and so we just didn’t have a lot of competitive depth, you know, which affects your practice, your meetings, everything. We’ve got more guys defensively that are functional, more guys that can go play, and it’s been that way all year. We’re a healthier team.

Last year, Shaq Lawson didn’t practice all week for this game, Mackensie (Alexander) didn’t practice all week. They both tried to play, Mackensie didn’t last very long. We’re definitely healthier. We’re deeper. We’re more experienced, and then offensively we’re better at running back. We’re better at receiver.

Last year Ray-Ray  (McCloud) was a freshman, Trevion Thompson was a freshman, (Hunter) Renfrow was a freshman, Deon Cain was a freshman, didn’t get to play in this game, Mike Williams was sitting on the sideline, didn’t get to play in this game. We’re just better prepared, I think, to hopefully play our best four quarters Monday night.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban said his top concern was Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who passed for more than 400 yards and threw four touchdowns against the Tide last year.

The quarterback,” Saban said. “Their entire system, their entire scheme, but Deshaun Watson, I’ve said this all week long, is probably the most dynamic player in college football, maybe the best player in college football relative to what he does for his team. A combination of his ability to pass the ball accurately, execute their offense in the passing game, as well as his physical ability to run the ball and add quarterback runs to their whole system of very good players, whether it’s running backs or wide receivers, and he can utilize all the talent on their team because of his skill set.”

Saban thinks he has a resilient team. The Tide may have to be.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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