SAN JOSE, Calif.--Let's cut to the chase quickly here.
No matter what happens in the CFB national championship game on Monday night between Alabama and Clemson, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has already won one battle.
Let's start with another premise.
No matter what happens in the CFB national championship game on Monday night between Alabama and Clemson, Alabama coach Nick Saban has already won his battle.
Win or lose, Saban and Alabama are No. 1--five national championships in 9 years at Alabama and a sixth title won when Saban was at LSU, put him in the GOAT coaching category.
The new news is that Swinney is No. 2.
It's not close between Saban and Swinney, although beating St.Nick for a national championship for the second time in three years will create a stir.
What's different now is that--with the retirement of Ohio State's Urban Meyer,--the gap between No. 2 and No 3 is fairly wide, although some fans of Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley will spawn some debates.
It is becoming tougher and tougher to find some tarnish on Swinney's rising image as a coach. Not only does he win, but he has now proven that he can handle controversy as easily as the team he coaches.
He made a mid-season decision to switch from senior Kelly Bryant to freshman Trevor Lawrence based on the premise that Lawrence had the better overall skills necessary to get Clemson a national championship.
A stunned Bryant immediately left school, creating a simmering amount of tension.
It could have torn the team apart internally, especially since Bryant had been successful and popular. Swinney did not dodge the controversy and now Clemson is one victory away from complete verification of the move.
Now, for the third time in four years, he is again knocking at the door of college football respect that comes with winning multiple national championships.
Swinney knows his competition, but is not backing down. He likes talking about it, acknowledging how far he has come and how much ground still needs to be covered in the land of Tiger Paws.
""I don't think there is any question that we're as good a program as there is in the country,''' he said. ""I mean, it's hard to say we're at the level of Alabama. I mean we've got to win--this is a great match-up--. It's a heavyweight fight, but for it to be a true rivalry, we' ve got to win a few. There's no doubt about that. They've been the best. But we're the new kid on the block. This is our third National championship appearance in four years, so I think that's a certainly validates our level of consistency. We've still got a little way to go.
""But I think for sure we've been the two most consistent programs in all of our country. We've just got finish the deal a few more times.''
So there you have it--a state of the program address from Dabo Swinney, who came out of Alabama as a player and has established his own turf.
College football has been highlighted by major rivalries vying for the biggest prizes such as Florida State-Miami, USC-Notre Dame, Texas-Oklahoma, Auburn-Alabama, Nebraska-Oklahoma and Michigan-Ohio State.
They have had each had their runs.
Now it is Clemson and Alabama's turn. Alabama will still be the leader in the clubhouse no matter what happens on Monday night.
""So I that's what I think the objective (the two best teams meeting) was,'' said Swinney. We went to a playoff system and the two best teams are here and the two best teams have been here every year.''