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No competitor wants the consolation prize. In the case of Dabo Swinney and Clemson football, it is hard to be too down about the outcome of Monday night’s national title game won by LSU. After all, Clemson is the national runner-up and just a year removed from winning the university’s third national championship.

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Don’t go too far with Swinney’s constant talk during the buildup to the College Football Playoff National Championship that his program gets too little respect for its accomplishments. He relishes the underdog role and motivates his players to the max using it.

Associated Press College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo wrote before the title game that Swinney and Clemson were on the verge of being the dynasty rather than playing annually in the playoff to “derail a dynasty.” He detailed how a victory would put Clemson in elite company in a number of ways, not the least of which would have been claiming three national titles in the space of four years as Alabama did from 2009-12.

Fact is, Monday night’s loss won’t diminish the stature of Clemson football.

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In the Swinney era, which began midway through the 2008 season, the Tigers have defeated Alabama in the national title game in 2016 and 2018. The team fell to Alabama in the championship game in 2015 and made an appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2017. Clemson has won the Atlantic Conference six times during the period, including the last five conference championships. They became the first 15-0 team in college history a year ago and had won 29 straight games before Monday night.

Plus, the real test of national stature is not what is said and written about games such the LSU loss, it’s what those playing for and being recruited to play at a school do. In the case of Clemson, the players they have now, those on the way and prospects represent a national base of talent that should ensure the Tigers are a force well in the future. The latest recruiting class is ranked by some as the nation’s best.

And next year on the field should be very good for Clemson.

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Russo wrote over the weekend: “No matter what happens Monday night, Clemson will begin next season as one of the favorites to win the national title. … This impressive run is far from over.”

Dabo Swinney can say as often as he wants that his program is just from “little old Clemson,” but the fact is the rest of college football isn’t buying it. Clemson is a premier program playing second fiddle to none.

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