ATLANTA, Ga. - These day-before game press conferences take on many forms at events like here at the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Many use the event as last chances to put the coaches individually out there for interviews and in between the two sessions, the bowl brings the two coaches together for that sometime awkward moment to hold the trophy for a giant photo op which has now gotten much bigger since everyone now takes their own photo with their own telephone.
You never sit in anticipation waiting for something exciting to come out of these events. I'm sure there are other things the head coaches want to do, but then again if the teams aren't ready now, then they never will be.
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl elects to bring both coaches in together for their final press conference and, while most of the media shows up for some food and to make sure neither coach throws out a late misstep, this conference was a time for each to discuss their programs and how one (Clemson) wants to be like the other (LSU).
In other words, Clemson wants to be like LSU and needs a win to put those Tigers on a level where they can consistently competes for ACC and potential BCS-post season opportunities, while LSU just wants to keep on the high national spotlight they have riding for years.
"This has not been the norm for us and we are trying to make it the norm to where we are in this situation every year, like LSU has been ... They are a national-championship caliber team and we are not quite there yet," said Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney.
"Any time you have an opportunity to play in a game like this, the opportunity for victory is twice, tenfold what happens if you finish second. So both coaches understand that and will be playing along those lines," said Coach Les Miles of LSU.
One of the interesting notes the media heard from the coaches that they brought up themselves was what Terry Don Phillips did for each of them and ironically, Phillips (who recently retired as Clemson AD) is one of the inductees for this year's Chick-fil-A Hall of Fame.
Philips hired Swinney as Clemson's interim head coaching 2008, replacing Tommy Bowden. He then hired Swinney as the full-time coach at the end of the regular season. Phillips also gave LSU head coach Les Miles his first college head-coaching job. Miles had been an assistant coach at Oklahoma State from 1995-97 when Phillips was athletic director. Miles would go on to the Dallas Cowboys, but when the head coach position came open, Phillips brought Miles back to Stillwater for the 2001 season. Phillips would leave for Clemson after Miles' first-year at OSU.
"It's an honor to be up here with Coach Miles," Swinney said. "All we need is Terry ..."
"I might take a second and talk about Terry Don Phillips," Miles said. "He hired an assistant coach to see if you could be the head coach, and the same Coach Swinney and I would have to think that we are both in some way very much indebted and we would like to say thanks. He took a chance on two assistant coaches and then they happen to be playing each other in this very prestigious Bowl game."
Of course by now, what questions haven't been asked going into this conference, although certainly the media tried to find some new angles. When asked about how much the coaches followed each other (although it didn't make the official transcript for some reason), I wrote on my notes that the LSU Coach mentioned he followed Clemson in the days of Refrigerator Perry which eventually led to Coach Swinney commenting: "I would say one other thing that jumps out is No. 44 (fullback J. C. Copeland). He's got his own Refrigerator Perry in the backfield and you don't see guys that that very often."
Another interesting question that came up was when it was pointed out it was the first time for LSU to enter a game like this without a bunch of quarterback questions.
"Well what we have really encouraged our team to do is improve and that's been a focal point from really the beginning of the season right on through ... I think the chemistry in the passing game, and he understands the running game pretty well; I'm glad there's no questions about my quarterback," Miles said."
Then came this question: "One of the Clemson assistants said of (Coach Miles), they have a coach that wants to pound you into oblivion, as far as smash mouth, strength and conditioning ... which prompted Miles to say causing the room to laugh:
"Just tell me he's not a big guy ... I'll get that guy's name and I'll have to size him up."
The teams have had the time to size each other up. The coaches have talked as much as they want or need to for those of us that write or broadcast.
"Let's get on with it," said Swinney.
"It's time to play," said Miles.
It's time for a Monday Night Football Bowl game at the Georgia Dome at 6:30 p.m. CST.
BOWL NOTES: In his state of the bowl message prior to the press conference, President/CEO of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gary Stokan, mentioned the payout of $7.1 million dollars and talked about Monday press event to announce the College Football Hall of Fame which will open in Atlanta in 2014. Stokan also announced that starting in 2014, the Chick-fil-A kickoff games will take place on a Thursday and Saturday with the induction ceremonies set for Friday night each year.
One of the Baton Rouge media found an interesting perspective in Swinney being an interim and then getting the job, much like Coach Dawson Odom at Southern University in Baton Rouge has done. Swinney said, "I tell everybody, I was a walk-on player that earned a scholarship and I was a walk-on coach that earned the job." Of coach Odom he said, "He's a great man, great coach. He actually is a guy that's worked my camp and the thing I know about him is a ton of energy, a ton of intensity, a ton of integrity."