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Clemson, LSU trying to win 4th national title in tonight’s winner-take-all game

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, right front, arrives with his team in New Orleans for the College Football Playoff on title game to be played tonight. (AP photo)

NEW ORLEANS — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has this drill down.

The Sunday before the College Football Playoff championship game a news conference is held with the head coaches. They compliment each other’s team and talk about focus and preparation. After, they shake hands and pose for photographs with the trophy that goes to the winner.

This was Swinney’s third time doing the dance, always as the team trying to derail a dynasty. Now his Tigers are on the cusp of joining exclusive in college football history.

No. 3 Clemson (14-0) will try to become the fourth team since The Associated Press began crowning college football national champions in 1936 to win three titles in four seasons when it faces No. 1 LSU (14-0) tonight at the Superdome.

“They know,” Swinney said of his players on Sunday. “They’re very well aware of what they’ve been able to achieve. And listen, regardless of what happens in the game tomorrow night, it’s really been a historic run. To win two out of the last three national championships is amazing.”

To win the first two, Clemson upset Alabama twice in the championship game. The Tigers also lost twice to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the playoff, including in the 2015 final.

In those previous Sunday-before-the-final news conferences, it was often Swinney — who grew up in Alabama and played on the Tide’s 1992 title team — being asked to put Saban’s unprecedented tenure in Tuscaloosa into perspective.

Fast forward to Sunday and it’s Clemson that has put itself in position to match one of Alabama’s greatest accomplishments. The Crimson Tide was the last team to win three championships in four seasons, winning BCS titles in 2009, ’11 and ’12. The Tide has won five championships in 13 seasons under Saban.

Nebraska, under coach Tom Osborne, won national titles in 1994-95 and then shared the championship in 1997 with Michigan after being voted No. 1 in the final coaches poll.

Notre Dame won three in four seasons in 1946-47 and ’49, being crowned the champs by the AP each time.

A case cab be made that what Clemson is trying to do would top them all.

The playoff makes teams go through two quality opponents to earn a championship. The Tigers were the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0 last year.

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