Sports Illustrated college football writer and ESPNU Radio host Andy Staples was asked on a local radio show in Miami if the seventh-ranked Hurricanes had a legitimate shot at beating No. 1 Clemson in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C.
Staples, in a joking but serious way, said he would like to say Miami could, but he was afraid Dabo Swinney had already found that power switch by the bathroom or the slide in Clemson’s state of the art football complex and turned it on.
The Tigers (11-1) have definitely turned on the power in outscoring The Citadel and rival South Carolina 95-13 in their final two regular season games. Heading into last week’s game, a lot of people legitimately thought the Gamecocks were capable of beating Clemson.
Obviously, that did not even come close to happening.
“I think it helps having a culture that understands what it takes because your team changes every year, but if you do a really good job and nurture the cultural of your program that can kind of transfers,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after practice Wednesday night. “But the leadership of our team, and there is no question, when you got guys that have been there and have experienced big games, they understand that is what we do. Every week is a big game. If you come to Clemson, I don’t care who we play, it is going to be the biggest game of the year because we are Clemson.”
That culture has allowed the Tigers to win last year’s national championship, play for the national championship the last two years, won three ACC Championships and seven bowl games, while winning 81 games in the last seven seasons.
Because of all that success, Clemson has to be ready each and every week because every team they play is going to play its best game against the Tigers.
“That is a lot of games so trust me, when we line up to play, you are going to get every opponent’s best version of themselves every single week,” Swinney said. “Maximum juice and maximum energy, so from our standpoint, our guys just understand that. We just try to get ready every week. We don’t vary how much we try to get ready, not very much at all. We just try to play well and try to create that pride in performance and that consistency in performance.”
Swinney said it has helped these last seven seasons because the program and obviously, a lot of the current players, have played in big games and on the big stage.
“You try to carry that over from year to year with leadership of your teams because the best teams that I have been on as a player, the best teams I have been on as a coach, they are really player led,” he said. “I just try to guide them and keep them on track and every now and again I’ll have to get them back in line.
“But the best teams are player led and this is a perfect example of that type of team. These guys get it.”
Miami loses another starter on offense. The Tigers are getting ready for a Hurricanes team that lost star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, who was carted off the field in Wednesday’s practice. ESPN is reporting Richards is out for the season with a knee injury.
Earlier this week it was announced tight end Christopher Herndon was done for the season after he was injured against Pitt … Herndon and Richards ranked second and third on the team in receptions.
Two defensive players out for the Tigers. Swinney said linebacker Tre Lamar (back) will not play in the ACC Championship Game. The Clemson head coach reported he is getting better, but he is just not ready to play this week.
Swinney did go on to say the sophomore should be back and playing in the bowl game. This will be the third straight game Lamar has missed.
The Tigers’ head man also said cornerback Mark Fields will not play after reinjuring his ankle. Fields has missed the last five games due to injury.
Linebackers to play. There was some good news for the Tigers. Middle linebackers J.D. Davis (knee) and Chad Smith (calf) will play in the conference title game on Saturday.
Davis was injured in the first quarter in last week’s win over the Gamecocks, while Smith has missed the last two games after getting hurt against Florida State.