Some might think No. 3 Clemson has all the pressure when it faces Virginia Tech in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game in Orlando, Florida.
However, head coach Dabo Swinney isn’t one of those people.
“It’s no different pressure than any other game,” the Tigers’ head coach said on Tuesday. “It’s at stake every week. It really is.”
What’s at stake for Clemson … a trip to the College Football Playoff, and an opportunity to play for the National Championship? A win over the Hokies and the Tigers are in the College Football Playoff for a second straight year. Lose, and they’re more than likely headed to the Cotton Bowl as a consolation prize.
“It was at stake at Auburn. It was at stake versus Troy. It was at stake vs. Georgia Tech. It was at stake vs. Syracuse. It’s at stake every single week if you are worried about all that stuff,” Swinney said. “We just try to have the best season we can have.”
Of Clemson’s five team goals, which are visibly printed for the team to see in the team meeting room, none of them say anything about making the College Football Playoff. The goals are: win the opener; win the division, with the state championship, win the ACC Championship and win the last game.
“There is not a single goal up there that says go to the playoff,” Swinney said. “There is nothing up there that says win the national championship. We don’t control that. We could go undefeated and somebody could say, ‘No! We don’t like ya’ll.’”
Swinney mentioned how some analyst want to put Southern Cal in the playoffs, despite the fact the Trojans have a 9-3 record.
“Now all of a sudden the season does not count,” he said. “Now, all of a sudden, it is more about your brand then how did you play. Games matter or at least they should matter. Again, we could go undefeated and someone could say, ‘We don’t like ya’ll.’ We got plenty of them people out there. ‘We don’t like ya’ll so ya’ll don’t get to go.’ Okay! We just want to be the best we can be. That’s all we want to do. We just want to be the best we can be.
“Sometimes, being the best you can be is impacted by a lot of things.”
Those things could be injuries or losing a couple of really close games or had some turnovers that were costly.
“Does that mean the team is bad? Does that mean the team did not play hard? Does that mean they did not give great effort? Does that mean they were not committed? Does that mean they did not practice with passion? Absolutely not!
“But sometimes that is just the way it is. So you celebrate that and then you go on to the next one.”
Swinney says the goal is to win the ACC. That’s what they want to do.
“The pressure is internal. It’s about playing to the standard that we talk about … being the best that we can be. If we do that, then you can look at the man in the mirror and smile at him, then you live with whatever the results you get.”