CLEMSON — In 2014, the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision will welcome a playoff. Odds are, Dabo Swinney will be one of its biggest supporters.
Clemson’s head coach took a shot at the BCS system Tuesday, specifically how his team and the ACC are perceived.
Clemson (10-1) is No.11 in this week’s BCS standings, one spot behind 10-1 Florida State, the only team to beat the Tigers this season.
Three 9-2 teams – LSU, Stanford and Texas A&M are ahead of both teams, and Swinney isn’t happy about it.
“I think ridiculous,” Swinney said. “I couldn’t have said this at the beginning of the year, but where we’re at right now, we can play with anybody. I’d love to play Notre Dame – Lord have mercy, I’d love to play Notre Dame. It’s not like we’ve been barely beating people. This team has improved, they’ve played with great effort, passion, togetherness. Right now they’re at the point where they’re as good as anybody out there. It’s a coin toss. I don’t think teams with two losses should be in front of Clemson or Florida State.”
Strength of schedule – or lack thereof – and a weak ACC have played a role in that perception.
The BCS is weighted equally between three polls: the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, the Harris poll, and the average of six computer polls. Clemson is ninth in the coaches’ and Harris polls, but its computer average is 15th. According to the Sagarin rankings, one of the six computer polls, Clemson has the nation’s No.89 schedule. The only teams worse among Sagarin’s top 30? San Jose State at No.89 and FSU at No.93.
“Some of that’s perception, some of it’s the teams we’ve played not having that good a year,” Swinney said. “All you can do is line up and be the best we can be. If we and Florida State finish strong we’re fine. If we can put together consistent finishes as a program, the perception changes. We’re kind of the new kid on the block, or the old kid coming back to the block. We haven’t been in that party very much. I get it.”
No fireworks: If you expected another round of fireworks in Dabo Swinney’s ongoing verbal rivalry with Steve Spurrier this week, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
While the head coaches of the state’s two FBS programs have taken shot after shot at one another over the past 12 months, both were highly complementary of the other this week, seemingly taking care to avoid controversy.
“This is not about me and coach Spurrier,” Swinney said. “It’s not. Some might want to make it that way, but I’m not really comfortable with that. I want our guys to play great, and I’m just trying to get a first down on Saturday. Coach Spurrier is an interesting guy – we actually get along. I haven’t had a problem with him whenever I’ve been around him.”
Spurrier, says Swinney, is who he is, and that’s OK.
“I don’t think it’s personal,” he said. “It’s not like he’s just now (throwing barbs). He’s got a long track record of who he is. He likes to stir it up now and then – it doesn’t have anything to do with the game. If (his barbs) cross the line, absolutely, I’m always going to defend myself and the people I believe in, Clemson, our program our players.
“I thought (his jab about LSU having the real Death Valley) was a pretty good comeback, pretty funny. Again, I’ve got respect for coach Spurrier. He’s been doing this a long, long time and has had a lot of success.”
Happy birthday: Swinney turned 43 Tuesday. He is 11 days shy of his four-year anniversary as the Tigers’ full-time head coach, which naturally led to a question about his progression in the job.
“I was 38 when I got thrust into this grease pit,” Swinney quipped in response to a question from The State columnist Ron Morris, who gained attention earlier this season for his feud with Spurrier. “Heck yeah, I’ve matured. I think you’re 39, 49, I’ll turn the question – are you a better reporter right now than you were 10 years ago?”
“Some people question that,” Morris replied.
“I think we all mature,” Swinney said. “I was a better player as a senior than a freshman, a better student my senior year of college (at Alabama) than my freshman year, a better husband after 19 years of marriage than my first years in marriage, a better Christian than I was when I first decided that was the path I wanted to go.
“I’m a better father 14 years into being a dad than when (oldest son) Will showed up. I didn’t have a clue. I’m a much better, much more mature coach. Just because of experience. I’ve had to handle a lot of things, learn, grow. I’ve worked hard at it. I’m studying, always trying to improve, never satisfied.”
Talking turtles: Maryland’s defection from the ACC to the Big 10 Monday came suddenly; the Terrapins and Rutgers will join the Big 10 to give the now-14-team league an East Coast presence.
“It caught me off guard,” Swinney said. “I was a little surprised, but it’s not a shocker. In college football, who knows anymore?”