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SPORTS LIBRARY, Clemson, football

ATLANTA — Back in October, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made one of his statements that had the nation talking when he said that even with his team’s success, it was still Alabama and the “rest of y’all.”

“The reality of it is, back when I was a player, we kind of had the big-time bus and then the R.O.Y. bus – the Rest of Y’all. It is kind of Alabama and the rest of Y’all,” Swinney said. “We are just kind of glad to be on the R.O.Y bus right now and to still have a chance. But it really does not matter. It is exciting to know that we are getting into November and we are still a team that is in the middle of the hunt.

“The race is not over. You have to keep running the race with purpose and focus and great attention to the task at hand and just take them one at a time. Hopefully, when it is all said and done and Y’all get to about that fifth or however many shows that Y’all do, we are still in there, that would be awesome. For us, we want to win our division first. That is what we want to do.”

Since he made those statements, Tiger fans have embraced their place on the R.O.Y. bus with T-shirts being made and bumper stickers being bought. But even with Swinney’s insistence that they are on the bus behind Alabama, not everyone is buying that ticket.

“Listen, Clemson is on the bus, all right,” ESPN GameDay’s Maria Taylor said.

“He is planting those seeds with his kids like, ‘Oh! Everybody loves Alabama! It is just Alabama,” David Pollack, also of ESPN’s GameDay, said.

However, maybe the biggest doubter of the Tigers being on the R.O.Y. bus is the man currently sitting in the driver’s seat of the lead bus — Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“Well, I think Clemson has got an outstanding program, an outstanding team,” Saban said during the College Football Playoff head coaches press conference. “I think Dabo does a really, really good job on a consistent basis. They have good players, but their players really play well. They're well-coached. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They execute well. It's a difficult preparation when you have to play against them. And I think they've been one of the most consistent, dominant teams throughout this entire season.”

Saban continued to heap praise onto Swinney and the Tiger program, stating that he has a great deal of respect for the consistency that Swinney has been able to build at Clemson.

“You know, I always say there's a lot of books written about how to be successful. There's not many written on how to stay successful,” Saban said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the fact that they've been able to do it on a consistent basis and be here over and over and over and over and play at that high level all the time and not have any complacency in the program. And their players are continuing to try to play to a high level and be the best players that they can be, and I think that's a tribute to his coaches and their staff and himself.”

However cramped it may be on the lead bus, the Tigers may need to get used to their place there because ESPN analysts David Pollack, Joey Galloway, Chris Fallica, Dan Orlovsky and Jonathan Vilma all have the Tigers bringing home their second national title in the last three seasons.

"I think both favorites win each of the semis, and I'll go with Clemson to beat Alabama in the title game," Fallica said. "They did it a couple years ago. Last year, I think we saw Clemson was limited offensively with what they could do through the air. But I think with Lawrence and those wide receivers, they would have a great shot. I think they are the second choice to win the title right now between Bama, so give me Clemson over Bama."

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia.

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