Clemson products Hopkins, Watson talk trash before CFP semifinal

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins walked into the locker room on Thursday morning wearing an orange-and-white Clemson cap over his trademark dreadlocks.

With Clemson taking on Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (4 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN) for a chance to play in the national championship, Hopkins proudly displayed the colors that mean so much to him.

"Born and raised in Clemson -- it's more than a school, man," Hopkins said. "That's where my whole family lives. I love that place."

When it comes to Clemson's game against Notre Dame, Hopkins is unabashedly biased in his analysis.

"I think Notre Dame can do some things against us, but I think overall we're a better team," Hopkins said. "I think we kind of outmatch those guys, especially in the secondary. From a wide receiver group, we have the best wide receivers in college. We have one of the best quarterbacks, got one of the best running backs, one of the best D-lines. [The Tigers are] going to be hard to beat."

That kind of trash talk might be bold in a typical NFL locker room made up of a wide array of players from different college football programs, but in Houston, Hopkins has plenty of backup in expressing his love for the Tigers.

No other college has more players on Houston's roster than Clemson. Along with Hopkins, quarterback Deshaun Watson, nose tackle D.J. Reader and defensive end Carlos Watkins also played at Clemson, with Watson and Watkins winning a national championship at Clemson to cap the 2016 season. Reader also played baseball at Clemson and Hopkins played basketball.

Hopkins said he was thrilled the night the Texans selected Watson in the 2017 draft and called Watson his favorite college football player of all time. Obviously, the fact that they both went to Clemson was a factor.

When asked if he was excited to watch the Clemson game, Watson was a little more reserved in his fandom than Hopkins -- but equally as confident.

"Oh, for sure -- get that dub, go on to the natty," Watson said. "Yeah, we're going to handle business, for sure."

Texans center Nick Martin and receiver Will Fuller V played at Notre Dame, but that doesn't stop Hopkins from saying he's hoping for a blowout -- in Clemson's favor, obviously.

As for the other playoff game, Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson played at Alabama, and fellow corner Aaron Colvin played at Oklahoma. The Crimson Tide and the Sooners will face off on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) in the Orange Bowl. Will there be any tension between the teammates over the game?

"I'm sure it'll get heated in these next couple of days," Colvin said with a grin. "I'm just telling y'all -- don't sleep on the Sooners."

What about defensive end Jadeveon Clowney? He was born and raised not far from Clemson in South Carolina, but his South Carolina Gamecocks aren't in the College Football Playoff and will take on Virginia on Saturday in the Belk Bowl.

So, out of the four possible options in the playoffs -- Clemson, Notre Dame, Alabama and Oklahoma -- for whom is Clowney rooting?

"I don't want Clemson to win," Clowney said, playfully. "Who do I go for -- Notre Dame, I guess? I don't even know why I would go for them -- our defensive line coach [Anthony Weaver] is from Notre Dame, and I don't care for him. Alabama has won it 20,000 times. Who else -- Oklahoma? Hey, go Oklahoma! I'm just joking. My team is at home. I'm going to cheer on ... not Clemson."