Top-ranked Clemson was paired with No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl when the College Football Playoff semifinalists were announced Sunday, marking the third time in three years that the Tigers and Crimson Tide will meet in the postseason.
Alabama defeated the Tigers 45-40 in the National Championship Game in 2015, then Clemson returned the favor last year, knocking off Alabama 35-31 in the title game to win its first national championship since 1981.
"Obviously they (the playoff selection committee) had a lot to consider, but they put the four best teams in there," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "Alabama has been the standard for a long time. We've had a couple of huge battles with them.
"It's only fitting that to have a chance to advance to Atlanta, you've got to win a heavyweight matchup."
The Tigers (12-1) will play Alabama (11-1) on Jan. 1. The winner will advance to the title game against the winner of the Rose Bowl, which pits No. 2 Oklahoma against No. 3 Georgia.
Clemson, which is making a playoff appearance for a third straight year, clinched its postseason fate Saturday night by cruising past No. 7 Miami 38-3 in the ACC Championship Game.
The Tigers were dominant against the Hurricanes, jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead and turning things over to a stingy defense that allowed only 214 total yards.
"Clemson is the measuring stick in the ACC and we didn't measure up," Miami coach Mark Richt said.
With the victory, Clemson's senior class earned its 50th win in the last four years, becoming the first team in ACC history to accomplish that.
Clemson has been to 41 bowls, but this will be just the second Sugar Bowl trip for the Tigers, who last played in the bowl in 1958, losing a 7-0 decision against LSU.
Swinney was a wide receiver on the 1992 Alabama team that defeated Miami for the national title at the Sugar Bowl. Now he's getting another shot at his alma mater in what amounts to the end of the Alabama-Clemson trilogy.
"There's changes on both sides," Swinney said. "And we've been playing them in the national championship game and this is a semifinal, so both teams will have more time to get ready for each other. It's going to be a heck of a game."