The No. 3 Clemson Tigers are not only favored to win their opening game of the 2019 College Football Playoff - currently two-point favorites over the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes - they would also be a slight favorite over LSU in the championship game.
In fact, many in the national media are claiming that Clemson is the team to beat and if they had to make a pick to win the championship, they would choose the Tigers.
"The No. 1 spot was so important this year because of this looming giant that has won 28-straight games," Fox Sports' Joel Klatt said. "They're the defending national champion. And everyone was angling towards trying to avoid playing Clemson in the national semifinal. Because they still have Trevor Lawrence who won the national championship a year ago. They still have Dabo Swinney. Their defense has played dominant football the entire year. This is a team that can, candidly, they may win it all still. because somebody has to go out there and actually beat them."
ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky went a step further, taking the Tigers to win the entire playoff.
"I'm taking Clemson to win the whole thing," he said. "I think Clemson has this defense that not enough people are talking about. They lost all those first-rounders. Everything that was on that defensive line has gone to the back seven — twenty-eight game winning streak in a row."
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But don't tell that to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, he still believes that his Tigers are the underdogs this season and will be riding a freshly fueled up ROY (Rest of Y'all) Bus out west this season.
"Every year you start over. We remind ourselves of that all the time. You got to earn it every single year," Swinney said. "But, yeah, the ROY Bus is fueled up, for sure. It's been easy this year. I really haven't had to do a whole lot. Pretty well stated on that, I think, on the record on all that stuff."
Swinney did admit that, while it may seem ludicrous for some that the defending national champions and winners of 28 straight games is playing the underdog card, every coach tries to find certain buttons to push to motivate their team. And, of course, when you reach the playoff level the margin for error is razor thin.
"I think as a coach, you take free fuel any time you can get it," Swinney said. "We got a good football team. We've earned our opportunity to get here. I'm proud of them. At this point it doesn't matter if you're one, two, three or four, you're going to play a great team. The margin for error is very small.
"We just wanted to be here, to have that opportunity. We are what we are right now: we're a team with a chance. Hopefully we can take advantage of that opportunity."
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. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io