NEW ORLEANS -- Shortly after defending national champion Clemson arrived in New Orleans for its College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Alabama, the talk turned once again to the third straight meeting between the two teams.
It was enough for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to joke, "I'm getting tired of this."
"They just don't go away, and that's why they're Alabama," Swinney said. "But at the end of the day, when you're competing to be the best in college football, you're going to end up playing these guys somewhere along the way, so it's just kind of the way it's supposed to be. We look forward to it, enjoy it, and I don't have any doubt it won't be a heckuva game."
It has been the past two seasons, and though the Tigers enter as the No. 1 team in the nation, Alabama is a 3-point favorite. Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said, "Alabama being the favorite is just a testament to them being a model program. We don't think anything about it. We don't mind being underdogs. It is what it is. We just do what we do."
Clemson practiced at home Wednesday morning before arriving in New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Swinney said it was the equivalent of a Monday practice during a normal game week. He also noted that about 95 percent of his team had never been to New Orleans, so he was going to talk with his team about Bourbon Street before allowing them to go out on their own Wednesday night. The team has a curfew that will tighten as the week progresses.
"If I worry about that right now, we get our butts kicked, [and] we're going home," Swinney said. "I'm not here to babysit them. These are grown men, I treat them that way, and I defer to the leadership of our team. If I've done a good enough job January till now, developing leadership, discipline and accountability, guys understanding there are consequences for their actions, then you shouldn't have to worry about that stuff when you show up."