Clemson is something Alabama can never be in this national championship chase. Destined.

Not saying the Tigers will absolutely win it Monday in Tampa. Just saying it sure as heck looks like their time.

That could mean nothing ... or everything. They make Disney movies about destiny. They build multimillion-dollar weight rooms to sustain what Alabama has accomplished.

But there is an intangible difference ahead. It is the Tide's sworn duty to compete for a national championship each season. There is a large portion of the Crimson and White populace who believe it is their birthright.

That's nice up to a point, but we've all dealt with fans who believe they deserve a championship. After a while, it begins to grate on you.

Clemson's story is fresher, almost more innocent. The Tigers stormed to a fourth-quarter lead against Alabama last year. Then? Pffft. Who knew if the Tigers would ever be back.

Having witnessed one of the biggest wins in the program's history Saturday, I'm still debating whether Clemson can close the deal in Tampa.

I'm definitely saying it sure as heck looks like the Tigers' time.

Take that any way you want, but there is still room in the college game for dreamy words like "destiny."

The Chicago Cubs fit the description after 108 years. There was some of that with the Cleveland Cavaliers after they fell behind Golden State 3-1 in the NBA Finals. Villanova and Kris Jenkins set the standard on becoming destiny's darlings.

Too trite? Too easy? In the immortal words of Wildcats coach Jay Wright, "Bang."

That would be the sound made by the figurative two-by-four Clemson smacked upside the Buckeyes' head in that 31-0 College Football Playoff semifinal shutout.

"That's not going to happen again," Urban Meyer said.

We'll see. Ohio State now has all offseason to begin figuring things out. Meanwhile, Clemson suddenly has the best offensive player in the country. Sorry, Lamar Jackson, but Deshaun Watson has lapped you.

Dabo Swinney has a defensive line anchored by two teenage freshmen -- 345-pounder Dexter Lawrence and 265-pounder Clelin Ferrell.

Lawrence is so soft-spoken he "talks like a 16-year-old girl" teammate Ben Boulware said. Ferrell went from missing his high school senior year with a blown out knee to the Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP.

Clemson's Brent Venables continues to be the most overqualified defensive coordinator in the country. Monday will mark his sixth national championship game as an assistant. At age 46, why hasn't anyone hired this guy to be a head coach?

Since that inexplicable November loss to Pittsburgh, Clemson has allowed an average of 254 yards.

"I'm definitely not pounding our chest, but we're on our way to being a consistent, proven winner that [you] should have a right to believe in," Venables said. "We have a chance to compete for a championship year in, year out."

Alabama has a dynasty. Clemson has a dream.

When asked how often he thought about matching up with Bama again, cornerback Cordrea Tankersly said, "Every day."

It's fitting the only two teams with active six-year streaks of at least 10 wins are meeting up. There are only 11 such teams in history that have accomplished that feat.

Alabama, you expect to be here. Clemson has openly campaigned about elbowing its way into your consciousness.

"Coach likes to play the underdog card, and we love that because we don't feel like we get the respect we deserve," Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow said.

The College Football Playoff is only three years old. But rather unintentionally, it has breathed life into that Cinderella concept.

It's not one that the game in general embraces. Only 18 teams have ever played for a championship since the birth of the BCS in 1998. None of them from the Group of Five. This is an exclusive club.

But Ohio State became easy to root for in 2014 when it rode a third-string quarterback (Cardale Jones) to a championship. Clemson scrapped its way back to the first championship rematch in the sport's history.

In Alabama vs. Clemson, we're talking 11 national championships vs. one (in the wire service era). The fifth-richest athletic department vs. the 39th (via the USA Today database).

Cinderella? That ranking makes Clemson the second-"poorest" public institution to play for a championship since 1998. A reminder: The Tigers are doing it in consecutive years.

"It's really because of the brand we have now," Boulware said. "We win on a consistent basis. We're probably going to be a national title contender for years to come. That brand and that label we've created brings in Deshaun Watson 2.0, brings in [tailback] Wayne Gallman 2.0. Whenever they leave, we reload."

Swinney only began bringing in top-10 recruiting classes around 2014. When he was promoted to replace Tommy Bowden in 2008, there was a wide belief he was a placeholder until Clemson could find someone better.

"I've never failed at anything in my life," Dabo said eight years ago at his introductory press conference.

If he breaks through Monday night, that assertion will still hold true. If not, well, Swinney knows exactly what he's getting into.

Clemson desperately wants to win. Alabama is expected to. Dabo knows that having played and coached with Bama. That's what a birthright is.

"I've got thick skin," Swinney said. "Thirteen years at Alabama prepared me well."