GAME NOTES: Clemson - Alabama

9th-ranked Clemson opens the season against No. 24 Alabama in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Aug. 30.

Clemson vs. Alabama Game Notes (full version):

Clemson vs. Alabama Series
Clemson and Alabama have two of the top football traditions in the South. Both have won National Championships and both programs have the most league titles in their respective conference histories. Clemson has won 13 ACC titles to lead ACC institutions, and Alabama has 21 to lead SEC institutions.

The two schools have not met on the gridiron since 1975 when Alabama defeated Clemson 56-0 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has an 11-3 lead in the series that dates to a 35-0 Clemson victory in 1900. College football Hall of Fame Coach John Heisman was Clemson's coach that day. Clemson won the first three games of the series, as the Tigers followed with shutout wins in 1904 and 1905. Alabama has won the last 11, so Clemson has not beaten Alabama since 1905.

Alabama did not score on Clemson in the first three meetings, then Clemson did not score on Alabama in four consecutive games played between 1934-1966. Alabama won a battle of strong teams in 1935, as Clemson entered the game with a 5-1 record and the Crimson Tide stood with a 5-1-1 mark. Alabama won the game played at Tuscaloosa, 33-0.

The two schools met four consecutive years from 1966-69. It was a series arranged by good friends Frank Howard of Clemson and Bear Bryant of Alabama. Howard was a 1931 Alabama graduate who went to Clemson the fall after he graduated and never left until his death in 1996. They decided late in Howard's career to have a four-game home-and-home series. Clemson went to Alabama in 1966 and 1968 and Alabama came to Clemson in 1967 and 1969. The 1969 season was Howard's final year as head coach.

The 1966 game was a contest between eventual conference champions. Alabama finished that season with an 11-0 record and won the SEC with a 6-0 conference mark. Clemson finished with a 6-4 record, but had a 6-1 record in the ACC. That year Clemson played ninth-ranked Georgia Tech, fourth-ranked Alabama and fifth-ranked Southern California, all on the road, as its non-conference schedule.

Bear Bryant came to Clemson for the first time in 1967 and the two teams did not disappoint the sellout crowd or 49,500 at Clemson Memorial Stadium. The contest ended with a 13-10 Alabama victory. Ken Stabler hit on 9-15 passes for 135 yards, including four connections for 110 yards to All-American Denis Homan. Clemson was led by Buddy Gore, the ACC Player of the Year that season, who had 23-73 rushing. Total offense was as close as the score, 276 for Alabama and 275 for Clemson.

Clemson had the ball in Alabama territory twice in the last eight minutes, but could not get on the scoreboard.

"I hate to see a good bunch of boys go out against top competition and lose like that," said Howard after the game in which Clemson missed two field goals. "We just beat them on defense, but they got what counts….the score. That pass receiver Homan is what really hurt us. We contained him better than I expected, but he made a couple of big plays that hurt us."

Clemson came close again in 1968, but an Alabama team that finished with an 8-3 record and top 15 national ranking, beat Clemson at Tuscaloosa, 21-14. The following year, Clemson ran up and down the field, but lost, 38-13. Clemson had a 200-yard passer (Tommy Kendrick), a 100-yard rusher (Ray Yauger) and a 100-yard receiver (Charlie Waters), yet lost the game by 25 points.

After the game, then Alabama captain and future Clemson head coach Danny Ford presented Coach Bryant with a game ball that included a sticker with the number 100 on it. ( It was the 100th year of college football and teams wore a 100 logo, so all he had to do was take if off of his helmet." The victory was Bryant's 100th win at Alabama.

Howard and Bryant both died on January 26, Bryant in 1983 and Howard in 1996.

Clemson Ninth in AP Preseson Poll
Clemson is ranked ninth in the preseason Associated Press and US Today college football polls released on August 16. It is the highest preseason ranking for the Tigers program since 1991 when Clemson was also ninth.

"I hope our team takes this ranking as a motivating factor, as something to uphold, then it is a positive," said Bowden. "If they think we have arrived, believe we have accomplished something and become complacent, then it is a negative. We won't shy away from it, but it will put a target on us. I am sure it will motivate Alabama."

The Crimson Tide also made the Associated Press preseason poll with a number- 24 ranking. This means Clemson will face a ranked team as a ranked team in the season opener for just the third time in school history. Clemson defeated a 12th ranked North Carolina team as an 18th ranked AP team to open 1959, and came away with a 20-18 victory. The only other battle of top 25 teams to play in the opening game of a Clemson season came in 1982 when 11th ranked Clemson lost to seventh- ranked Georgia in Athens, 13-7.

This will be just the 10th time in Clemson history that the Tigers have opened a season against a top 25 team, but the fifth time a Tommy Bowden coached Clemson team has done it. Clemson has won each of its last two openers against a top 25 team, a 25-24 win over 17th ranked Texas A&M in 2005, and a 24-18 win over 19th ranked Florida State last year.

This is the 20th season Clemson has been ranked in the preseason top 25 by The Associated Press. The first occurrence took place 50 years ago when Clemson was ranked number-18 top open the 1958 season according to AP. Clemson finished 8-3 that season and won the Atlantic Coast Conference title. The Tigers finished 12th in the AP poll that year, 13th by the UPI Coaches poll.

This is the seventh time Clemson has been ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll, the first since 1991. Clemson's highest preseason ranking in any poll was a number-four rating in 1984 and 1988. Clemson finished 7-4 in 1984 and 10-2 in 1988. Clemson was ninth in the final AP poll in 1988.

The preseason poll has not been much of an indicator for Clemson in the last few years. Each of the last three years Clemson has not been ranked in the preseason poll (2003, 2005, 2007), Clemson has finished in the top 25 of both polls. Each of the last two years Clemson was ranked in the preseason top 25 (2001 and 2006), the Tigers have not finished in the top 25.

Seven times Clemson has been ranked in the preseason top 25 and gone on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title. The last time that happened was 1991. That was also the last time Clemson was ranked in the top 10 in the preseason poll.

Clemson's highest final ranking in a season it was not in the preseason poll came in 1981 when the Tigers won the national championship.

The 1989 season is the only year Clemson's preseason poll matched its final poll. Clemson was 12th in the preseason and 12th in the postseason polls that year. Clemson's highest finish in a year it has been ranked in the preseason top 25 came in 1978 when Clemson was 18th in the preseason and finished sixth.

Opposing Assistant Coaches Have Had Impact on Both Programs
Two assistant coaches in Saturday's game have a deep knowledge of both programs. Clemson Assistant Head Coach and Wide Receivers coach Dabo Swinney served as an assistant coach and player at Alabama over a 13-year period (1988-00). Alabama Associate Head Coach and Running Backs coach Burton Burns served as an assistant coach at Clemson from 1999-2006.

Swinney has been at Clemson since 2003, so none of the current Alabama players played for him. In fact, he has not coached at Alabama since the 2000 season. He was a graduate assistant coach at Alabama from 1993-95 and a full-time assistant coach from 1996-00. Swinney also played at Alabama from 1989-92. In 1992 he was a player on Alabama's National Championship team.

Burns is in his second year as an assistant coach at Alabama. He was an assistant coach at Tulane under Tommy Bowden in 1997 and 1998, then moved with Bowden to Clemson in 1999. He remained an assistant coach at Clemson through the 2006 season.

Burns coached some of Clemson's greatest running backs in history, including current Tigers James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Davis and Spiller combined for 2,125 yards rushing in 2006, a school record for two backs combined in the same season. Davis now needs just 837 yards to become Clemson's career rushing leader. Burns also coached Clemson's career touchdown leader, Travis Zachery, who scored 50 touchdowns over his career (1998-01).

Tigers from Alabama
Clemson has seven players who list Alabama as their home state so the season opener will be a special game for those young men. This is the most players from the state of Alabama on the Clemson team in history. Current Clemson assistant coach Dabo Swinney has had a lot to do with Clemson's success in the state. He has signed 12 student-athletes from the state of Alabama since he came to Clemson in 2003, including all seven on the team this year.

Two of the young men from Alabama could start for Clemson in Saturday night's game. Tyler Grisham will start for sure at wide receiver. The three-year starter from Birmingham and Spain Park High School has 95 career receptions and obviously would love to reach the 100 mark against the school from his home state. Brandon Maye is a strong candidate to start at middle linebacker. He red-shirted last year, so this will be his first career appearance, certainly a memorable night for the native of Mobile, AL and Davidson High School.

Tigers Have Four New Starters in Offensive Line
Clemson will have four new starters in the offensive line this year. The 9-4 Tigers of 2007 who led the ACC in scoring offense were led in the offensive line by Walter Camp Foundation second-team All-American Barry Richardson at tackle, and second team Sporting News All-American Chris McDuffie at guard. It marked the first time that Clemson had two offensive linemen on the same team earn All-America honors.

Tommy Bowden also lost 2007 starting tackle Christian Capote and starting offensive guard Brandon Pilgrim to graduation. Thus, the only returning starter on the offensive line for 2008 is center Thomas Austin. Historically, Clemson has not done well in seasons it has had to replace four starters on the offensive line. Since 1965, or when two platoon football returned to the college scene, Clemson has had 13 seasons in which it has had to replace four starters on the offensive line. Clemson is just 79-66-4 in those seasons for a .542 winning percentage.

The 2007 season was one of those years, and the Tigers finished in the top 25 with a 9-4 record. It was the fourth time Clemson has finished in the top 25 even though it had four new starters in the offensive line. Clemson has actually won two ACC championships in those years where four offensive line starters were replaced (1982, 1986), and Clemson was 7-0 vs. the ACC in 1983 in that situation, but Clemson was on probation and could not win the ACC title.

Harper Listed as Top Senior QB Prospect
Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper is listed as the top senior quarterback NFL draft prospect by Scout.com in a release made by the service on August 8. Harper threw for 2,991 yards and 27 touchdowns last year when he led the ACC in passing efficiency, the first Clemson quarterback to lead the ACC in that category since Mike Eppley in 1983.

Harper was ranked first and followed by Curtis Painter of Purdue, Hunter Cantwell of Louisville, Todd Boeckman of Ohio State and Chase Daniel of Missouri. Graham Harrell of Texas Tech was sixth, followed by Rudy Carpenter of Arizona State, Tom Brandstater of Fresno State, Mike Reilly of Central Washington and Nathan Brown of Central Arkansas. Clemson National Award Candidates Clemson might have as many national award candidates as any school in the nation. It certainly has a lot to do with Clemson's high national ranking in many preseason team polls. Tommy Bowden's Tigers have eight different players named to various preseason Award candidate lists, the most in school history. The 2000 team that ended the season with a top 15 national ranking and 9-3 record, had six.

Four Clemson offensive players are on the list of 75 candidates for the Maxwell Award. The group of Tigers includes running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, wide receiver Aaron Kelly and quarterback Cullen Harper. Clemson, Oklahoma and Southern California were the only schools nationally to have four candidates on the list.

Clemson has never had a player win one of the national awards currently given. Terry Kinard was named national Defensive Player of the Year by CBS television, an era in which very few national position awards were given outside of the Heisman Trophy. Clemson has never had a Heisman Trophy finalist. Steve Fuller came the closest with a sixth place finish in 1978.

Four Tigers Named to Preseason All-ACC Team
Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper has been named the preseason ACC Player of the Year by media who attended the league's annual Preseason Football Kickoff at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, GA. Harper received 34 of the 64 votes submitted by the media attending the event.

Clemson actually had the top three players in the voting for the award, as running back James Davis was second and with 16 votes and running back C.J. Spiller was third with four votes. If one of the Clemson players wins the award in the postseason it would be a landmark accomplishment. A Clemson player has not won the award since 1987 (Michael Dean Perry) and a Clemson offensive player has not been ACC Player of the Year since 1978 when Steve Fuller captured the second of his back to back league player of the year awards.

Harper set 22 Clemson passing records last year when he led the Tigers to a 9-4 record and final top 25 ranking. His list of records included most touchdown passes in a game with five on two occasions, touchdown passes in a season with 27 and best touchdown/interception ratio (27/6). Harper was the second team All-ACC quarterback in 2007 behind Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, but it was Harper who led the ACC in passing efficiency with a 142.0 figure. He was the first Clemson quarterback to lead the ACC in efficiency since Mike Eppley in 1983.

Harper was joined on the preseason All-ACC offense by teammates James Davis and Aaron Kelly, both of whom were named first-team All-ACC last year as juniors. Davis rushed for 1064 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, while Kelly had 88 receptions, tied for the second most in ACC history, and had 11 touchdowns, tops in the ACC. Davis needs 837 rushing yards in 2008 to become Clemson's career rushing leader, while Kelly needs just three receptions to become Clemson's career reception leader. Kelly also needs just three touchdown receptions to break Glenn's Smith career record of 18, a mark that has stood since 1951.

Spiller did not make the preseason team, but was third in the voting for player of the year. He joins with Davis as Clemson's "Thunder and Lightning" running back duo. Spiller led Clemson with 1723 all- purpose yards last year, including 768 yards rushing. He was the MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year when he became the first Clemson player in history to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards in kickoff returns in the same game.

Michael Hamlin was the only Clemson player to make the preseason All-ACC team on defense. Hamlin led the Clemson defense in forcing turnovers last year with six on four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He had 97 total tackles to lead Clemson's defense that ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense and total defense. Hamlin was a second-team All-ACC selection last year.

Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest each had four preseason All-ACC selections to lead the conference. Nine of the 12 teams were represented.

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