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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney described Clemson and Alabama as "respectful" rivals on a radio show Monday morning.

Dabo Swinney calls Clemson-Alabama ‘healthy, respectful rivalry’

All season, the Clemson football team has seemingly feasted on disrespect, turning negative comments or perceived slights in rankings into motivation.

Monday, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney spoke on Alabama radio show The Opening Drive, and he was careful not to give Alabama any such motivational material. However, Swinney did say something interesting. In previewing the Tigers’ Sugar Bowl matchup with the Crimson Tide, Swinney characterized the two teams as unlikely rivals.

Most fans likely think of rivalries as annual, hatred-filled meetings between two teams in the same state or conference. While Swinney said Clemson and Alabama don’t have feel the animosity toward one another as, say Alabama and Auburn or Clemson and South Carolina, he feels the matchup is worthy of the “rivalry” designation.

“Sometimes in sports, rivalries kind of pop up from time to time that maybe you didn’t expect or whatever, but all of a sudden they happen,” Swinney said. “They’re very healthy, respectful rivalries, and that’s kind of what this has become.

“I don’t think Alabama people are probably excited about playing us, and we’re not real excited about playing them because we know both teams are really good, both teams are capable of winning it. But there’s a lot of respect I think from both sides, from the team standpoint, the fan standpoint, I think Alabama people respect good football and so do we here at Clemson.”

The rivalry between the Tigers and Crimson Tide obviously stems largely from the fact that the two teams have played in the College Football Playoff national championship game the past two years in a row, and will meet up this year in a semifinal. But there’s also a sense that the two schools are vying to lay claim to the crown of best, most consistent program in the country. The winner of this year’s matchup, a rubber match of sorts, would have bragging rights for at least a year.

“We’ve won 61 games in the last five years and Alabama’s won 62, and so to have to sit here and play Alabama again for the third time, you know, it’s just the way it’s supposed to be,” Swinney said. “… Alabama, you just count on them being there. And if you’re gonna win it, you’re gonna have to beat Alabama regardless.”

As for Swinney’s expectations for the matchup, he’s predicting another thriller, in line with the two title games.

“At the end of the day, somebody’s going to win and lose, but you just love to see guys play with unbelievable effort, and that’s what’s happened in these last two games, and that’s what you’ll get this game.”