Ranked No. 1, big games and being on center stage has become the norm for the Tigers
It was during pre-game warmups prior to Clemson’s 2015 ACC Championship game against North Carolina when Jeff Scott walked over to his wide receivers group and told them how this is “a once in a lifetime moment.”
“He said we are not guaranteed this every single year,” Hunter Renfrow recalled, “and it seems like every year we keep on going back.”
Saturday’s 2017 ACC Championship Game against No. 7 Miami in Charlotte, N.C., will be the top-ranked Tigers’ third straight trip to ACC Championship Game, joining Florida State as the only two programs to make it to the conference’s championship game three straight years.
“It has been pretty neat to experience,” Renfrow said.
What it has become is the norm at Clemson. Playing in big games, playing for championships and being ranked No. 1 is what these Tigers do. They don’t expect anything else.
Earlier this week, Scott was asked what it felt like to be back at No. 1 in the college football rankings.
“I guess it is a good feeling that it does not really matter,” Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator said. “I can remember how many years ago it was, the first time we got ranked up there and we were like, ‘Wow! This is a really big deal and we are finally getting back up there,’ and now it has just kind of become the norm.”
While everyone is talking about how “The U” is back at Miami and how the Hurricanes have finally gotten over the hump and have earned their first trip to the ACC Championship Game, Clemson is quietly playing for its third straight ACC Championship while trying to lock up a berth in the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.
Saturday’s ACC Championship Game is a big game for Miami, and it’s a stage its program has not been on in a long, long time. Clemson on the other hand is making its fifth appearance in the conference title game, and in the last three seasons the Tigers have played in perhaps more big games than any other team not named Alabama.
In other words, while it is all new for Miami’s players, coaches and their fans, for Clemson this is the norm. These are the moments they aspire to be in.
“That is kind of what we were talking about going into the South Carolina game … we are playing a top 25 team on the road, that was the message to our guys. This is just the norm for us,” Scott said. “This is not, and obviously this is a very important game and it means a lot to a lot of people, but we play in more big games than we do ‘not big games.’
“I think for our guys, they know they have to win this game regardless. It does not matter if we are number one or two. None of that really matters. You have to go take care of business and Coach (Dabo) Swinney said from the beginning, the only ranking that really matters before the final ranking is the one coming up here on Sunday, once all the (conference championship) games have been played and they set the teams and all that.”
Scott says their players are excited about the prospects of winning another ACC Championship and possibly even more. However, right now, this week is all about beating Miami and winning a third straight ACC Championship. All the other noise from the media and the fans doesn’t matter.
Like they always say at Clemson, “This week is a big game because it is the next game.”
“I just saw, and you see these stats about how many weeks in a row we have been in the top 5 and all of that, but when you look back and go, ‘man, that is pretty impressive,’ especially where we were a few years ago,” Scott said. “But, I love that it has kind of become the norm and it is just a quick peak. We are number one this week instead of number two … that is really all the attention that our guys have put in it.”
In other words, playing for a championship is just the norm at Clemson.