Tigers sort of feel like '94 Huskers

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's been tough to like the Clemson Tigers since 1981, when "Refrigerator" Perry and their team knocked off Nebraska for its only national championship until Monday night.

But this era's Clemson Tigers are fun from heroic quarterback DeShaun Watson to coach Dabo Swiney's down-home honesty.

And even a closer look shows how these Tigers compare to Tom Osborne's first national champion in 1994.

Think about it:

Just like Clemson, Big Red was coming off a crushing title-game loss one year earlier on Byron Bennett's missed field goal against mighty No. 1 Florida State.

Just like Nebraska, Clemson returned almost all the top players for another awesome title run. I recall glancing at a preview in August and thinking "Clemson should be No. 1."

Yet just like the Huskers, Clemson's road was far from easy. The Tigers struggled against Troy, should have probably lost to North Carolina State and had to rally like crazy at Florida State.

Without Tommie Frazier, the Huskers had their own struggles with Wyoming, Kansas State and at rival Oklahoma.

Eventually, both teams saw a trendy conference foe become more popular among the media. Colorado even vaulted above Nebraska in the '94 poll with Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam.

Not long ago this year, some talked about how they'd love to see Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson and Louisville challenge Alabama.

Yet the Huskers smacked down Colorado, 24-7, just as Clemson fought off Louisville this fall. Both teams worked their way into final title games against the decade's superpower featuring many high-level NFL prospects.

Who can forget Nebraska facing those Miami Hurricanes featuring NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and linebacking great Ray Lewis?

Just like Clemson, Nebraska fell into a 17-7 hole against Miami and appeared nothing was going its way. The Huskers kept grinding and grinding until Frazier was running out Sapp while making "what's wrong, fat boy?" jokes.

No fat jokes in today's super-sensitive era, but Clemson ran 99 plays while essentially doing the same thing to that mighty Tide defense.

I remained awake until 11:25 p.m. and cheered that final Tiger touchdown -- not anything like NU winning it and I am not planning to get any giant Orange tiger paws tatooed on my bald fathead.

Yet it showed again why beyond all the blabber about what's wrong with the game, sports really can still be truly great.

Congratulations, Clemson Tigers.

A truly worthy national champion to start 2017.

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