Georgia on his mind? Dabo Swinney trying to keep opponents 'nameless, faceless'

'We're playing Clemson every week. That's our toughest opponent every single week - Clemson'

Football - Dabo Swinney's 2013 annual media golf outing at The Reserve

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Dabo Swinney's 2013 annual media golf outing at The Reserve

The No. 1 item on the 'goal board' posted in Clemson's West End Zone team auditorium is "win the opener."

It doesn't say "beat Georgia."

The objective may be one in the same this year, but the distinction is important as Dabo Swinney attempts to pilot his team through the treacherous hyper-charged buildup to college football's marquee opener.

Yeah, he knows it's a big game.

"I tell our team all the time that everybody is a nameless, faceless opponent," Swinney said last week. "We're playing Clemson every week. That's our toughest opponent every single week - Clemson.

"That's the mentality that I've tried to ingrain in these guys, so that there's no up-this-week, down-next-week; this is a big game, this is not a big game. When the scoreboard lights up, it's big, regardless of the name on the jersey."

That being said, Swinney knows this one is different - at least from the fans' perspective.

"When I first got the job in December of '08, I remember someone asking me about how excited we were to play Georgia in 2013," Swinney recalled. "I'm like 'I just hope I can live 'til 2013.' That was the furthest thing from my mind. But that tells you the significance of this game."

Swinney is glad to have the experience of last season's opener against Auburn in the Georgia Dome to build on.

"Just like last year when we opened up with a game like Auburn, in Atlanta on national TV, there's just so much more noise, from a national standpoint, surrounding the game than if you were playing more of a non-BCS type opponent," he said. "And then you throw in the fact that it's Georgia - Clemson-Georgia.

"I grew up watching Clemson-Georgia, and it's been neat watching it unfold. Both teams finished in the top 10 last season, it's Clemson-Georgia, ESPN GameDay (probably, but not officially), a night game, all that stuff. It makes it exciting. Our players don't live in a cave."

Swinney says it's important for the coaches to help the players manage the hoop-la, and their own excitement.

"It's something you have to manage and be really careful of," Swinney said. "If you just put everything into this game as a win-or-else type of deal, and you win the game, if you don't manage it the right way, it's a letdown and a rollercoaster deal. And vice-versa.

"If you don't win the game, both of these teams have great aspirations - big goals and big dreams for the season. Both of us hope to be in the top-10, competing for the whole thing when it's all said and done. The winner of this game isn't guaranteed a slot, and the loser of this game is not guaranteed to be out of it. Georgia lost an emotional game early last year, and they were five yards away from playing for the national title. Alabama has won it two years in a row, and they lost at home in November.

"The key thing is to stay focused on the right things, which is your commitment, your preparation, your work ethic, what out our formula for success is, as we've defined it at Clemson. The rest of it will take care of itself."

Tomorrow: Swinney's winning formula, and what the Tigers learned last season.

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Comments » 13

clemvol writes:

The key points here: Focus, One game at a time, beat everyone with a vengence, and don't take your foot off the neck until the dust settles.You know who you aere and what you can do. Now go out and prove it every single week.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

If we lose, we do not have any chance of winning the national championship because we play in a perceived weak football conference. If we played in the SEC like we should be, then we could overcome a loss, especially very early in the season. If Georgia loses, like I think they will, they still play enough really good teams that could get them back up pretty high in the polls. I personally do not think Georgia is as good as we are and we should win the game. But if we don't, forget about Pasadena cause it ain't gonna happen. 13 and 1 is still a pretty good season.

Xander5000 writes:

If we lose, stranger things have happend in college football before. The ACC might just be more tougher than the critics think. 5 or 6 teams in the conference might catch fire and just go on a run. And if we beat them, we still look good. A few teams from the SEC might just fall from their high-horse, because we all know they beat each other up in that conference. Who knows,...Bama could get 3 losses. Its a big game with UGA, yes.....but its one game---the first one. We got the rest of the season to make our path. I'll believe it when I see it til' the end of the season if we have no shot at a title after this one game. Until then we just need to do our thing.........play ball and win.

TigerFan95 writes:

in response to rsb8931#286014:

If we lose, we do not have any chance of winning the national championship because we play in a perceived weak football conference. If we played in the SEC like we should be, then we could overcome a loss, especially very early in the season. If Georgia loses, like I think they will, they still play enough really good teams that could get them back up pretty high in the polls. I personally do not think Georgia is as good as we are and we should win the game. But if we don't, forget about Pasadena cause it ain't gonna happen. 13 and 1 is still a pretty good season.

I disagree. Although the UGA game is hugely important, it will not be a season killer if we lose. Just look back to 2010. We started that season barely ranked in the top 25 and moved all the way up to #6 before losing to GT in week nine. Even with that late season loss we still managed to work our way back up to #7 before losing to NC State and SC. Had we not lost those last two games we would’ve still been in the national title hunt with one loss and because 4 of the 6 teams ahead of us later lost we would’ve likely been ranked #3 behind LSU & Bama in the BCS poll heading into the ACCCG. After beating VT in that game there would’ve been a very good chance of us jumping Bama in the BCS poll to play LSU in the BCS NC game that year. This year, given that both Clemson and UGA are highly ranked in the preseason polls, Clemson will likely not drop much with a loss in the first week and will have more than enough quality games (FSU, GT, NC ST, SC & the ACCCG) left in the season to move back into the NC picture if they win out.

clemvol writes:

I really believe that this years team know that they will bring it every game. We need to forget about last years wins, last years losses. We need to forget about the last several years,heck ,forget about anything that has happened in the past. Not only do the players need to bring it the fans need to bring it also. Don't worry about is this going to happen again or is that going to happen again or will you get let down again, just forget about all that nonsense and enjoy this year because i know its going to be a special season. The team is ready, now everybody else get ready. No doubt.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

in response to Xander5000:

If we lose, stranger things have happend in college football before. The ACC might just be more tougher than the critics think. 5 or 6 teams in the conference might catch fire and just go on a run. And if we beat them, we still look good. A few teams from the SEC might just fall from their high-horse, because we all know they beat each other up in that conference. Who knows,...Bama could get 3 losses. Its a big game with UGA, yes.....but its one game---the first one. We got the rest of the season to make our path. I'll believe it when I see it til' the end of the season if we have no shot at a title after this one game. Until then we just need to do our thing.........play ball and win.

You could be right but I sort of doubt that 5 ACC teams do very much as far as the national polls go. And Alabama could lose 2 or 3 games fairly easily. I think you are right when speaking of the SEC teams falling from those very high horses they are all riding these days. And the fall will hurt them because they are so high off the ground. If we play to our ability each week we will probably not lose a game this season. I got confidence in our players because for once in our football history it isn't just talk. They can play. You make some good points and if we do somehow lose to UGA 13 and 1 ain't too bad!

Bigboots writes:

1. BEAT GEORGIA...

12. BEAT SOUTH CAROLINA

SoCalTiger writes:

Every game this season is the the national championship game as far as I'm concerned. Going undefeated is the only way to stay in the conversation. One loss, any loss will take away the shot at the top.

Bleedsorange writes:

I will add to bigboots comment with "and every other team in between"

radtiger writes:

in response to Bigboots:

1. BEAT GEORGIA...

12. BEAT SOUTH CAROLINA

Those will be the 2 teams we wont beat

TrevorT writes:

CHICKEN TROLL ALERT!(not fooling anyone)
Go Tigers! Throttle anyone standing in front of you, be they dawg or chicken.

cuGIZ82 writes:

in response to radtiger:

Those will be the 2 teams we wont beat

You picked CU to lose to Auburn, SC, and LSU last season. You got 1 out of 3 correct. Hopefully your trend of picking the winning team will continue in CU's favor.

pawpower58 writes:

radtiger could be one of those feathered imposters

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