This year's Clemson schedule - with two FCS opponents balanced by two SEC powers - will not be the norm for the Tigers going forward, Dabo Swinney says.
The Tigers ended up with two in-state FCS teams - South Carolina State and The Citadel - this fall because of maneuvering associated with the ACC's temporary move to a nine-game conference schedule.
While the games are good for the state's economy, Swinney said Clemson's model going forward will be to play a top-tier team, like Georgia, Auburn or Notre Dame, a mid-major FBS opponent, and one in-state FCS opponent, in addition to the season-ending game against South Carolina.
Swinney believes such a schedule will give the Tigers ample opportunity to play their way into the national championship conversation within the new playoff structure, which will go into effect next year.
"There's going to be a premium on beating people that count," Swinney said. "Heck, you could schedule all the 'directional' schools and be 13-0 and stick your chest out, but we've got to go play people.
"I think playing eight conference games is a huge challenge. This conference is getting stronger and stronger by the day, and then you throw in the fact that we're always going to play South Carolina, and they're one of best teams in the country. If we can play another top-tier opponent, and then maybe a mid-level Division 1 opponent - I think that's a formula that works for us. And then typically, we play one against somebody from in the state."
Swinney believes the playoff door will be open to an ACC champion that takes care of its nonconference business.
"With the schedule that's presented at Clemson each year, we'll have an opportunity to be in that mix," he said. "If we're a 12-1 or 13-0 type team, winning a conference championship, there's no way we're not going to be on the national scene."
Swinney said he likes Clemson's commitment to playing one in-state FCS opponent each season.
"We do like playing one like that a year," he said. "We've got two this year, and that's not the norm for us. But I think it's great when you can play a team in-state, keep the money in the state, and help these programs that are helping a lot of students in this state, giving them opportunities. I think it's a real positive."
Saturday's game has been announced as Clemson's first pregame sellout ever against an FCS opponent. A crowd of more than 83,000 is expected for the 12:30 p.m. kickoff.