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Nick Saban on Clemson: I think they’re the best team

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has the defending national champions on the brink of the first 15-0 season in FBS history, yet he says the team his Crimson Tide will be lining up against on Monday night in the College Football Playoff national championship game is the best.

Speaking to the media in the final press conference setting before Monday night’s championship game in Tampa, Saban was, as to be expected, complimentary of Alabama’s opponent, ACC champion Clemson. Having gone toe-to-toe with Clemson a year ago in the championship game, Saban has as much respect for his next opponent as you can imagine. As Saban suggested, Clemson didn’t get back to the championship game by accident.

“I think that based on competition, competitors, you want to play, you should expect to play the best team,” Saban explained, as transcribed by “If you’re going to compete for a championship, and I think that Clemson deserves to be here, and I think they’re the best team, and I think our team deserves to be here, and they’ve done a great job all year to beat a lot of good teams to have the opportunity to get here, as well.”

Last year, it was Alabama handing Clemson their first loss of the year in the championship game, blocking Clemson from reaching an unprecedented 15-0. This year the roles are reversed. Clemson was No. 1 last year, Alabama is the top team this year. Clemson was undefeated last season, this year Alabama is undefeated. The respect Saban has his counterpart, Dabo Swinney, is evident because Saban knows how difficult it is to reach this stage, especially in consecutive seasons (yes, even for Alabama it is an accomplishment reaching this far).

“Dabo does a great job,” Saban said. “I think we need to be ready for whatever might happen and whatever the situation might be. But I think even without any new wrinkles, it’s been a very challenging week for us in terms of getting ready for whatever they do because they do a fantastic job.”

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