Clemson seniors excited for fourth opportunity to face Alabama

Blackledge: Not much of a gap between Clemson and Alabama (1:14)

Todd Blackledge was impressed with Clemson, saying he thinks there isn't much of a difference between Alabama and the Tigers. (1:14)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ding. Round 4.

College football's top two programs once again will meet to decide the national championship on Jan. 7. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson both easily dispatched their semifinal opponents Saturday before turning their attention back to each other. Neither side is growing tired of their annual matchup yet.

"I love going up against them because it definitely brings out your best," Clemson senior Christian Wilkins said after a 30-3 victory over Notre Dame. "I was joking earlier, saying they should just be a part of our conference. We've got to play them every year."

Wilkins and his classmates are headed toward their third national championship showdown with the Crimson Tide, who handled Oklahoma 45-34 on Saturday. Alabama won the first meeting in 2015. Clemson returned the favor in 2016. Last year, they met in a semifinal game and Alabama won on its way to another championship.

"Every single year it seems to be us and them to battle it out in the end. It's going to be a great challenge," Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher said. "We respect their program a whole lot. It's always a tough game against those guys. It starts with practice."

He added: "It's going to be our fourth time in the national championship in a row. All four have been against these guys. It's crazy. It should be fun."

Alabama defensive end Raekwon Davis echoed Pierschbacher's excitement, saying it will be like old times seeing Clemson again with yet another national championship riding on the game.

"They run a lot of the same things we run. We're kind of similar teams and know each other," Davis said. "They're good at what they do, and we're good at what we do. We'll see who's better."

Clemson senior Hunter Renfrow wouldn't quite go so far as to say the Tigers' locker room was pulling for Alabama, but an opportunity to even their series will be well received in Clemson despite the challenge.

"I won't say hoping, but obviously they're up 2-1 on us seniors," said Renfrow, who caught a title-clinching touchdown pass in the 2016 meeting. "We're excited to go back and make it .500 and be over .500 in national championship games."

Wilkins said it was too early to attempt to put this rivalry in a larger context with other two-team championship runs. The Massachusetts-born defensive end said he wasn't quite ready to put his program on the same level as the legendary Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers series from the 1980s.

He said he understood why some fans might be getting tired of seeing the same two teams fight for championships every year, but he's not sure if their two-pronged dominance is a good thing or a bad thing for college football.

"I don't know," Wilkins said. "How do you feel about the Cavs-Warriors every year? People have mixed feeling about it. If you see the same two teams, people might say, 'I'm not watching it,' but they're watching it anyway. I personally don't know."

Wilkins said the Alabama teams they've seen each year have been different but that they'll be preparing the same way for a matchup that is becoming a part of the program's regular routine.

"It's just what you expect. They're gonna compete, and they're gonna play, and we have to do the same," Alabama safety Deionte Thompson said. "It's a rivalry brewing there, so you gotta be ready to come out and compete."

ESPN's Alex Scarborough and Chris Low contributed to this report