Tigers in better shape for title run?

Nov 7, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney looks on prior to the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson has a one-game-at-a-time mentality. The next game is always the biggest game on the schedule, and that’s what will come out of Dabo Swinney’s Tuesday press conference when he previews Saturday’s Homecoming Game against NC State in Death Valley.

However, during his call-in show on Monday night, Swinney did look ahead just a little bit. It was not to another opponent or anything like that, instead he talked about why the third-ranked Tigers might be better equipped for a national title run this year as opposed to last year’s run.

“Our schedule is so much better. We are in a better spot than we were last year,” he said while answering a caller’s question about the Tigers’ bye week coming next week. “Last year, we had a bye week after our third game so we played ten straight to finish the season. We kind of limped to the finish line. We had gas in the tank, but we did not have much to spare or left over when we landed the plan, that’s for sure.”

The Tigers had just enough gas to beat North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game and advance to the College Football Playoff where they beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in the semifinals.

Swinney said the 10 straight weeks without a bye took its toll on his team, especially on defense where they lacked experience and depth behind their starters. That’s not the case this year.

“We got kind of fueled back up and freshened up to go play in the Orange Bowl, but the way our defense was built, we were so young behind the backers and the ends, we were just built differently,” he said. “Whereas this year, our depth is so much better and the competition is so much better and the schedule is better.

“We have one game this week and then we will have an open date and then five games left.”

Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) will need that break after getting a little banged up following physical wins over Louisville and Boston College the last two weeks. Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins tweaked his ankle in the win over BC as did defensive back Ryan Carter. Offensive tackle Tremayne Anchrum suffered a high ankle sprain, while wide receiver Mike Williams suffered from a high hamstring injury.

The Tigers can also use the off week to get guys back like defensive end Austin Bryant (foot) and cornerback Adrian Baker (ACL).

“So we need to get some guys feeling good and to really have a spring in their step for this stretch run in this second half because it is critical for us. I think (the schedule) sets up very, very well,” Swinney said.

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