Dabo Swinney and his Tigers are determined not to get caught looking ahead to Columbia.
But all the same, they've worked in a bit of 'good-on-good' drill work while they've prepared for back-to-back triple-option opponents, just to stay on the sharp side.
"When we do our good-on-good work, we're obviously not doing it against the triple-option," Swinney said this week.
Swinney said that after the ACC announced Clemson's schedule last spring, the first thing he thought about was the fact that leading up to their game against South Carolina, which runs a traditional power-based, multiple offense, the Tigers will have spent two full weeks perfecting a defense that has little carryover.
"We've worked a little option stuff throughout the year and we've still been doing a lot of good-on-good the past two weeks," he said. "That's how we stay sharp. I really believe in that. It's enhanced more this week because we're practicing against the triple option every day.”
Swinney says the Tigers have given him reason to believe they will be able effectively shift defensive gears from Georgia Tech/Citadel mode to South Carolina mode.
"We've been good on defense," Swinney said. "Last year we improved, and this year we've picked up right where we left off in the bowl game. We're third in the nation in three-and-outs - that's getting off the field. We're one of the best in the country in sacks and tackles for loss, and those are huge factors in playing good defense.
"We're creating turnovers - I think we've got the longest interception streak (13 games) in the country right now; and our secondary hasn't had a lot of good things written about them over the past couple of years. There's just been a lot of good progress."
Swinney said the Tigers' enhanced level of defensive play now works hand-in-hand with the offense and special teams.
"I don't believe you win championships with either offense or defense," he said. "You win championships with a complete team. If you have great defense, somebody's still got to score. And if you a great offense, somebody still has to stop the other guy. And you'd better have good special teams, too.
"You've got to be able to make plays in critical situations in every area. To win consistently, you have to find different ways to win. One game, you're just not quite there on defense, and the offense picks you up. One game, the offense isn't clicking and then it's the defense. Against Maryland, we had to kick four field goals. We just couldn't quite get it in the hoop. That's what good teams do - they find ways to win games."
Even with this year's improvement, Swinney still sees Clemson's defense as a work in progress.
"We're not what we're going to be defensively," Swinney said. "We've only got four seniors on our whole defensive roster. We're a good defense that's in the process of becoming very, very good.
"I'm not satisfied with where we are. There are a lot of things we still need to improve - the discipline that we play with and all those things. But I'm optimistic that by the time the season is over, we'll be one of the top scoring defenses in the country and one of the best on third down. If we're third in the country in three-and-outs, then we're obviously pretty good on third down now.
"All those things go hand-in-hand."