ATLANTA — Clemson comes into Monday's Chick-fil-A Bowl as a 5-point underdog to LSU.
That comes as no surprise to Dabo Swinney.
"LSU is a great team," Swinney said. "We're not a great team, not yet. We think we're on our way from a program standpoint. LSU is a great football team. They're a great program and they've earned that with the consistency that they've played with. They played for a national championship less than 12 months ago and were a play or two away from being in it again this year, so they represent where we want to go from a program standpoint to that type of national competitive consistency."
Swinney didn't sound like a man necessarily trying to lower expectations for his ACC team's tilt with this SEC power from Baton Rouge. Instead, he was simply providing a quick lesson in current events.
When it comes to "greatness" in the BCS era, Clemson is still chasing the Bayou Bengals.
Still, Swinney knows if his team pulls off the upset it would be a grand achievement for his program. Not only would it give a boost to the ACC in its continuing perception battle with the SEC, it would allow Clemson to begin and end its season with wins over Southeastern Conference foes.
It would also provide an elusive 11th "W" for the Palmetto State-based Tigers.
"If you win this game, it's a great accomplishment to finish off a really good season, and you set your eyes on taking another step and doing bigger and better things," Swinney said. The next step for us is to try and win them all.
It would also set the stage for "the next step."
"The next step for us is to try and win them all," Swinney said.
One of the oddities of bowl season is the fact that teams have so long to wait between games.
Clemson and LSU last played on Nov. 24 and resume their season five full weeks later.
"Fortunately this is like a regular week for us," Clemson safety Travis Blanks said. "But coming off a month without playing, it is kind of strange."
Blanks said the coaching staff did a good job of keeping the team busy leading up to the showdown with LSU.
"They've been really working on keeping us focused and making sure we're on the right track," Blanks said. "They made sure our preparations were like we were always getting ready to play the game, so that made things go a lot more smoothly."
TIRED OF TALKING
Clemson's Josh Watson patiently answered questions following Thursday's practice, and naturally the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference vs. Southeastern Conference came up.
Although Clemson opened the season with a win over Auburn, it was the only ACC football victory against the SEC in 2012.
On the final weekend of the regular season the SEC swept the ACC, 4-0.
"The only thing we can do is strap up and show them on Dec. 31, New Year's Eve," Watson said. "All this talking and interviewing isn't going to win the game. At some point, you've got to put your hand in the dirt and go prove yourself and that's what we're looking to do on New Year's Eve."