CFB Preview: No. 2 Clemson-Troy
Clemson fans are not quite ready to talk about Troy.
Clemson's 19-13 victory over Auburn marked the first time that the Tigers' offense failed to produce at least 20 points in a game over a span of 14 outings dating back to the 2014 season.
The second-ranked Tigers also failed to gain at least 500 yards in total offense for the first time in 11 outings.
That had some Clemson faithful carping about the closeness of the contest.
But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney wasn't accommodating to any critics carping about the closeness of the game, which had Auburn throwing into the end zone for a possible victory as time ran out.
"I'm sorry we disappointed them, that's all I can tell them," Swinney said. "We went to win the game, and that's what we did. We did drop three touchdown passes that we normally catch. And we did have a fumble in scoring position.
"We weren't quite as clean."
A couple of other miscues cost potential scores as well.
"So we just miscued on a few things," he said. "We'll be just fine offensively."
Then he had a second thought about the criticism.
"I think that's great, to be honest with you," he said. "I think that's great. I think that means we've become a relevant program when there's a group of people that aren't even happy when you win. I feel sorry for those folks. We're just happy to win. We're always going to get better.
"I can remember a time not very long ago when nobody would have expected us to go to Auburn at 8 o'clock on national TV in prime time and win. Now we're expected to win, which is awesome. It's where we want to be.
"We're supposed to win by a certain amount and all that, but that's not my objective. My job is to win football games, not to make other people happy by how we win."
No doubt many of those same critics are expecting a much more comfortable margin when the Tigers host Troy Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
The Trojans, a Sun Belt team that is looking to rebound from a string of tough seasons, come into the game off a 57-17 rout of Austin Peay, an FCS competitor. Swinney called them a "dangerous team."
"A lot of you guys will sit there and say, 'Oh, that's coach speak,' but I'm telling you now that if they had 'Auburn' across their chest, this bunch here can play," he said. "I'm very impressed with how well coached they are."
Neal Brown is in his second season as coach of the Trojans, who won four Sun Belt Conference titles from 2006-09 after making the transition from the FCS level. He was only 4-8 in his first season, but his defense under former Clemson coordinator Vic Koenning held opponents to just 391 yards a game in total offense, the first time since 2008 an opponent had not averaged at least 400 yards a game against Troy.
"I'm telling you, this team right here is going to be a handful," Swinney said. "I remember very very, very vividly in 2011 jogging off the field at halftime down 16-13. And everybody in the stadium is booing, including my wife. And my mom. And my mother-in-law.
"It was not a pretty sight."
The game in Memorial Stadium will be the first at home for the Tigers in a long stretch. They have been away from home for their last five games, a span that began with the 2015 regular-season finale against South Carolina and continued with games against North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game, Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in a College Football Playoff semifinal, and the national championship game against Alabama before concluding with the trip to Auburn to open the 2016 season -- a lot of games to be played without a home game, he noted.
The Tigers went 4-1 in that stretch, losing only to Alabama.
"It's great to be home," Swinney said. "That's the biggest thing about this week."
"I told the staff this morning I'm so excited to be back in Death Valley," he said.