The Clemson Tigers are undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the country, have been ranked No. 1 in every installment of the College Football Playoff rankings, and last year beat Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
And yet, the Tigers are 3.5-point underdogs against the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
How? How can anyone justify Clemson being an underdog? Especially against Oklahoma?
“I think a lot of people are history buffs,” former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think they’re going on longer traditions, if you want to call it that. With Bama historically being great, and obviously Oklahoma having a rich tradition, Michigan State’s been a rising program – (all of that might have something to do with that). But I think also being a team in the ACC doesn’t garner the respect that it should. But these guys are going to have to come out there and compete. Obviously there’s a lot at stake. These guys will have a chance to compete for the national championship. So for these guys, it’s about going out here and proving something. Obviously I think they got to go and just play the way that they know how to play.”
Clemson went 13-0 this season, beating Notre Dame, Florida State and North Carolina in the process. All three of those teams finished the year ranked in the top 20, and Notre Dame and North Carolina finished in the top 10.
Needless to say, the Tigers, who have won 22 of their last 23 games, won’t be intimidating when they take the field Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. Yes, Boyd, speaking from experience, believes Dabo Swinney will have his players ready when the bright lights come on.
After all, one of Swinney’s go-to lines for his players is, “Don’t buy the lie.”
“It goes for good things and bad things,” Boyd explained. “Sometimes you get caught up in reading press clippings, reading media interviews, and that can distract you. And at the same time, you look at and things and the negative side of observations and you can dwell on that. So you really just got to go out there and just do what you did to get to this point and go out there and be ready to compete.”
Clemson has won 10+ games in each of the last five seasons and has won three consecutive bowl games, beating Oklahoma, Ohio State and LSU.