SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow knows what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is doing.
No. 3 Clemson (14-0) is a 6.5-point underdog against No. 1 LSU (14-0) for the upcoming College Football Playoff championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in New Orleans. Clemson will be in LSU's backyard, and Swinney will continue to play the underdog card as a result.
"Emotions and momentum and edges are a real thing, and it's something I feel like I've been a part of," Tebow told Sporting News. "I've seen it over and over and over again. It doesn't mean that a terrible team can beat a great team, but if the gap isn't that big and you are playing with a chip on your shoulder, it's absolutely real."
Clemson is on a 29-game winning streak heading into the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 13, and sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence is 25-0 as a starter. Clemson beat Alabama by a final score of 44-16 in last year's CFP championship game, and this is a chance to win a third national championship in four years. Swinney talked about that perception on the CFP teleconference Monday.
"I mean, to win 29 games in a row is, it's historic," Swinney said. "I mean, it's just unbelievable how hard that is to do in today's world. I just felt like people were, there were some people trying to diminish what these guys have achieved, and to be able to just get up every single week and play at such a high level, so consistently, it's special to be a part of."
Tebow, who was a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national championship quarterback at Florida, knows the underdog card well. He said that was the message Urban Meyer used in 2006, when the Gators beat Ohio State and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith in the BCS championship game — and again in 2008, when Florida beat Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford for a second national title in three years.
"We were the underdog in '06 and '08," Tebow said. "At least that's what Urban told us. It was absolutely real, especially in '06. We heard for six weeks leading up, and that was a huge break then, we heard how Michigan was supposed to be there and we shouldn't be there. They had the Heisman Trophy winner and they had a great defense.
"Our defensive line was sick of hearing that. Our skill guys were sick of hearing that. There really was a chip."
There is a similar scenario at work for the CFP championship game. LSU defeated No. 4 Oklahoma, 63-28, in the Peach Bowl, and Clemson escaped with a 29-23 victory against No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. LSU has a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Joe Burrow and home-field advantage with the game being played in New Orleans.
Tebow said that sets up well for Clemson — at least in terms of using that card again.
"That's one of the things Dabo does so well," Tebow said. "He gets his team to peak and to play free and play with momentum and play even above what they thought they could. Dabo will absolutely use that in this game. I think they will play free, and I think that the underdog card is real."
Tebow continued his work with the Allstate AFCA Good Works team this season. On Tuesday, Tebow, R&B singer Usher, Good Works team members and other volunteers refurbished the Einstein Charter School in New Orleans.
"It's so fun every year getting a chance to meet these young men and getting a chance to talk to them about their goals and dreams and their hearts and why they have done so much to give back," Tebow said. "In the last few years I've sat with a lot of young men who want to start their foundation. I'll talk with them and say, 'This is what I've done that's gone well and gone bad.' This is what it's about."
Check out more on the Allstate AFC Good Works Team here.