CLEMSON – In a mostly mocking way, Clemson fans chanted “A-C-C!” in the final seconds of last week’s win over Georgia in Death Valley.
Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney was asked if the victory that catapulted Clemson to No. 4 was a “statement game” for ACC football this week.
“Well, I don’t know about a statement for the ACC. I just think it’s a statement for Clemson,” he said. “I mean, I always tell people, it’s not about the league – it’s about the program.”
A bell cow for the conference along with Florida State the last two seasons, Clemson can claim some pretty cool distinctions.
They are the only non-SEC team that can claim both four top-25 wins in the last two seasons and consecutive top-10 victories over their Southeastern neighbors.
Swinney tired of 'pulling a Clemson' phrase
Since Swinney took over in 2008, Clemson has captured five top-10 wins, which makes up over 30 percent of them in the school’s history (31.3). Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd is tied for tops in the Clemson quarterback record books with seven top-25 victories.
Over the last five years, Clemson and Florida State each own four top-25 wins out of conference and an 8-11 record combined.
The rest of the ACC (including new members Syracuse and Pittsburgh) went 10-34 in that span. Five teams (Wake Forest Duke, Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College) haven’t captured one banner victory outside their conference.
Virginia Tech, which owns a .799 win percentage in ACC games since joining in 2004, is only 2-5 in top-25 matchups the last five years OOC.
Rising to the program’s highest ranking since 1988 this week, the Tigers obviously didn’t do so on the perceived strength of its conference – and that’s just fine with Swinney.
“I mean, you can be a bad team in a really good league and say, hey, but we’re in this league,” Swinney said. “Well, that’s great, but your team isn’t very good. To me it’s more about the program. That’s really what I’m more concerned with. All the rest of that stuff, that all takes care of itself as long as you’re taking care of the things that you control.”
One of the factors Clemson would like to control is a consistent flow of tough out of conference opponents, with the Georgia scheduling paying off currently.
“There’s no doubt that we have to play games like that to give ourselves a chance to compete nationally,” Swinney said. “The SEC plays games like that; that’s something that they do. Alabama last year, heck, played up in Michigan, played Virginia Tech this year. That’s just something I think most of the top schools do.
“You’ve got to play somebody outside of your conference that is a very worthy opponent, and not only play them but you’ve got to win those games.”
Early scouting: Clemson is focused on the next one – S.C. State – but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get a look at the reigning ACC champs Florida State’s 41-13 win at Pittsburgh on Labor Day.
Redshirt freshman phenom QB Jameis Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another.
“(He’s an) impressive guy,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “A lot of people are commenting about (Pittsburgh), but to come out and play that composed as a freshman is impressive. It was exciting to watch him.”
The Tigers’ defensive coordinator got a good look too.
“It’s an opportunity to scout ahead,” Venables said. “I’m sure they watched us the other night. Yeah definitely, they looked pretty good.”