Once before, Clemson has been here. Once before, it outlasted more admired teams to win the national championship.
It was 1981, and it seemed the country wanted someone else — anyone else — to win its national title. But No. 1 Michigan lost. Alabama lost. Notre Dame and Oklahoma and Penn Sate and Pittsburgh and North Carolina all lost. Clemson beat No. 3 North Carolina 10-8.
Then, in the Orange Bowl, the Tigers beat Nebraska to win Danny Ford’s only national championship.
Success hasn’t come as often to Clemson as it has, say, Alabama, but the Tigers have been pretty darned good. Now, they have a chance to be great. The whole world might find out about Howard’s Rock (named after legendary coach Frank Howard) and Running Down the Hill and the $2 bill and the Tiger Rag.
The top 10 Clemson Tigers in their history:
10. William Perry. Perry was more of a name than a player with the Chicago Bears, but at Clemson, he was an unblockable force.
9. Michael Dean Perry. Michael Dean didn’t have the hype that his brother had, but he was probably a better player.
8. Terry Allen. Despite a knee injury and leaving a year early, Allen finished his career with 2,709 yards rushing and 28 scores.
7. Dwight Clark. Clark’s numbers were not gaudy in college, but he played well for the Tigers before going on to make “The Catch.”
6. Brian Dawkins. Dawkins is one the best safeties in NFL history.
5. C.J. Spiller. Spiller rushed for 3,537 yards with the Tigers.
4. Terry Kinard. Kinard was one of the mainstays on the 1981 title team.
3. Jeff Davis. Davis, as well, played well for the 1981 champions. Known as “The Judge.”
2. Sammy Watkins. Watkins is just beginning to make his presence known in the NFL.
1. Deshaun Watson. Watson finished third in this year’s Heisman, and a lot of analysts thought he should be higher.