Video courtesy of UGASports.com
Alabama fans, Minkah Fitzpatrick was right there with you Sunday. The junior defensive back was one of the 3 million viewers who turned in for the College Football Playoff Selection Show awaiting whether or not his Crimson Tide would be one of the four playoff teams selected for the playoff.
He didn’t enjoy the wait either.
“The anticipation was definitely killing me because, one, I don’t like my fate being in someone else’s hands and it was in the hands of the committee,” Fitzpatrick told reporters in Atlanta prior to the College Football Awards Show. “I didn’t really enjoy that because being at Alabama I’m used to being No. 1 or 2, we’re usually in there. I was really nervous, and afterward I was excited."
Fitzpatrick said he couldn’t fathom Alabama not being selected in the playoffs for a fourth straight year. However, he and the rest of the team entered Sunday's announcement a little nervous and decided to watch it separately just in case Alabama wasn’t selected.
ESPN took about 30 minutes before announcing the final four. When Alabama’s logo finally appeared on the playoff screen in the No. 4 slot, the wait was well worth it.
“I met a couple people in the locker room and we all just started cheering,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re just ready to get back to work.”
No. 4 Alabama will face No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 at 7:45 p.m. CT in New Orleans. The game will feature a rematch of the past two national championship games. Clemson defeated Alabama 35-31 in last season’s championship game, while the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers 45-41 for the 2015 title.
In both games, Clemson has gotten the best of a typically stingy Alabama defense. Two years ago the Tigers tallied 550 total yards, while last season they racked up 511 total yards.
“They usually do a good job against us, but a lot of times it’s just us not doing our job or us not executing the right way,” Fitzpatrick. “Every time we go into this game we just tell everybody we have to do their job, stay disciplined and do what we got to do.”
Last year’s loss to Clemson came down to the wire as quarterback Deshaun Watson hit receiver Hunter Renfrow for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 35-31 lead with one second remaining in the game. The narrow defeat has been brought up several times over the season and is one Alabama players are eager to rectify.
“That was a great game that we had with them last year that came down to the last play of the game. And the year before we had a great game with and that kind of came down to the end, as well,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban Sunday. “So, I think we have a lot of respect for them and the kind of football players that they have. And I think we just want our players to focus on what they need to do to try to play their best football, and I think that’s what it’ll take from our standpoint. That’s certainly what we’ll try to get them to focus on.”
Fortunately for Fitzpatrick and the rest of Alabama’s players, that’s all they will have to focus on as their destiny once again rests in their own hands.