This time last year, Clemson was 3-0, but it was a different 3-0.
Like this year, those Tigers had a hard fought win over Auburn, but they struggled to beat Troy in Week 2 by six points and in Week 3 routed S.C. State in a similar fashion they did this year to Kent State in the season opener.
Last year, Clemson opened the season as the preseason No. 2 team, but slid down to No. 5 in the polls after its six-point win over Troy. At the time, the media and fans wondered what was wrong with the Tigers, who returned just about everyone on offense and had record-setting quarterback Deshaun Watson back.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney insisted nothing was wrong with his team, and in the end when the Tigers won their first national championship since 1981, everyone saw he was right.
Now we fast forward to this season, and after three games Clemson is once again 3-0. After starting the season as the preseason No. 5 team, the Tigers have climbed the polls and now rank No. 2 in the country thanks to wins over top 15 teams Auburn and Louisville. The Louisville game was not even close and they did it in a hostile environment with a first-year starter in Kelly Bryant at quarterback.
Everyone, fans and media alike, are now wondering if this Clemson team is better than last year’s squad and can they make a run at another national championship.
“Awe, shoot! We have played three games,” Swinney said Wednesday during his weekly teleconference with the ACC media. “I would answer that question just like I would answer last year after three games when everybody wanted to know what was wrong with our team … ‘Why are we not a good team?’ And my answer then is the same it is now. We have played three games. We are 3-0 and that is where we want to be.”
The only thing Clemson is looking towards right now is playing Boston College, who it will host this Saturday (3:30 p.m.) in Death Valley.
“We have a long way to go and the same thing for this team,” Swinney said. “Three games do not make a season. I mean we are happy where we are, but we have a lot of improving to do. I think (Louisville) was a big win for us last week, but it was probably our worst game defensively. It was of the three.
“That does not mean we played bad, we just made more mistakes, had more mental errors, more missed tackles and did not do the things we need to do. If we do not fix it, then we will get exposed.”
Swinney said it is the same thing on offense, despite the fact Clemson tallied 613 yards of offense and scored 47 points.
“There is just so much we have to improve as a team,” he said. “We have a long way to go. September is not the time to be talking about who we are compared to, past teams and so forth. We are just a team trying to earn our way right now.
“We are good enough to beat people, but we are not good enough to show up. We are capable of getting beat each and every week by any of these people on our schedule.”
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