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

season.

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

said.

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

appearance.

”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

win.

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

end.

”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.”