CHARLOTTE—Have the No. 1 Clemson Tigers finally surpassed the Alabama Crimson Tide as the premier program in all of college football?
While that question may be deemed as fighting words for many in the south, for ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis, the Tigers have already established themselves as the new kings of college football.
"You could make the argument that Clemson is taking over the sport, as the premier dynasty,” Davis said.
Clemson’s rise to dominance in the college football world has not occurred overnight—it has been a road that began, for Davis’ co-star, Kirk Herbstreit in the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Clemson upset the No. 8 LSU Tigers, 25-24, on a last second field goal by Chandler Catanzaro. It was that game for Herbstreit that signaled that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was on the verge of building, not just a great team, but a great program that would last.
"I've had a front row seat to watch this and be behind the scenes with Dabo and his team, and watch them go from being on the outside to now being in that upper tier,” Herbstreit said. “I think they have to be right there. Not just the last two years, but really this goes back to I think it was LSU they beat in a bowl game. From that point on, just go back and look at the names of the schools that they have beaten and the conferences in which they play in.
“How can you not put Clemson among the elite? I still think they are gaining momentum. I still don't think that people quite get how long they've been around, but whether they win or lose this game, for me, they're already they're already at that top tier in the country."
The Tigers can further stated their case, with a victory over the No. 1 Crimson Tide en route to capturing their second national title in the last three seasons with a dominant 44-16 win.
The fact that the Tigers have been able to put together as impressive a run of success as they have—rising to the consensus No. 1 team in the country —is still shocking to many in the national media.
“Think about when we walked out of that national championship in Tampa and we were looking at that team and celebration and you think about some of those players that walked off that field and you'll never see them in a Clemson uniform again--led by Deshaun (Watson),” Herbstreit said. “To their credit, the thing that is remarkable is that they didn't lose their edge. Sometimes when you climb the mountain, you finally get there and its human nature that you lose a little bit--they didn't at all.