Swinney: Just an opener for 8th-ranked Tigers
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has played and coached in numerous
openers and plans to treat Saturday night’s game against No. 5
Georgia as just the latest one, nothing more and nothing less.
But that’s difficult when top-10 teams meet to kick off the
Swinney said Tuesday that his eighth-ranked Tigers can’t get too
caught up in what happens against the Bulldogs at Death Valley, win
or lose. There’s a long season remaining and even a defeat won’t
derail Clemson from its championship goals.
”So what?” Swinney said about a potential Tigers’ win.
”You’ve got to be careful. It’s not a one-all, end-all deal. It’s
a long season.”
Swinney said if you need proof, take a look at Alabama, which
lost games in November each of the past two seasons, yet rallied to
win the national championships. The coach said it’s much more
important for Clemson to compete hard, even if the Tigers come up
short on the scoreboard.
”We’ve got 12 games on the schedule. Every opponent is
critical. We’ve got much bigger goals than an opening game,” he
Still, Swinney’s excited about the buzz around campus, the
activity at Memorial Stadium or the prime spot this game carries in
college football. ESPN’s ”College GameDay” will be at Clemson for
the first time in seven years. On Monday night, Swinney was swarmed
by well-wishers at a local grocery store where he did an
”I think that’s great. They’ll be people rolling in probably
(Wednesday) night just to smell the campus,” Swinney said.
Clemson is coming off an 11-2 season, its most victories in a
year since the school’s lone, 12-0 national championship season in
1981. The school plans to honor the coach of that achievement,
Tigers folk-hero Danny Ford, at a pregame ceremony where his name
will be etched into the facing of the stadium.
But Swinney’s had the Tigers focused on bigger things from
almost the moment they defeated LSU 25-24 on a last-second field
goal in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.
The next step for Clemson in Swinney’s eyes is playing well
consistently against strong opponents like Georgia. Should the
Tigers fall short, they are still favorites to win the ACC and
still in contention for the BCS crown. Swinney won’t de
”Both teams have very little room for error and from that
standpoint, it’s a big challenge,” Swinney said. ”But we’re going
to grow over these first few weeks and we’ve got a lot to prove as
a football team.”
Reigning ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd has tried to keep
expecations in check leading up to Georgia. Boyd holds dozens of
Clemson quarterback records and had strongly considered skipping
his senior season for the NFL with his bravura showing in the LSU
Instead, he came back for one last championship try and has
taken on his coach’s attitude about facing Georgia. He’s stuck to
his standard preparations and believes that will help him keep calm
and on track against the Bulldogs.
”In games like these, there are only a few plays that make a
big difference,” Boyd said. ”When those plays are there to be
made, I want to make them.”
Boyd said he can’t help thinking about the last time he faced a
Southeastern Conference power at Death Valley last November and how
he and the Tigers came up short against South Carolina, 27-17. Boyd
was sacked 4 1-2 times by Gamecocks terror Jadeveon Clowney.
The QB said he’s stayed away from most sports TV the past week
or so, but did watch an ESPN feature on Clowney this past weekend
where they depicted a sleeping Boyd, holding a Tiger teddy bear,
having fits in his sleep worried about the Gamecocks defensive
”They had me in a gray” t-shirt, Boyd said. ”I don’t even
wear those. I thought it was funny.”
Boyd said he and the offense were flat in that game and does not
want a repeat against Georgia. If things don’t go Clemson’s way,
Boyd says the team won’t panic.
”This is not a make or break game, regardless of the outcome,”
Boyd said. ”It’s a long season. Win or lose, we’ll have to get
ready for the next situation.”