By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Disappointed Clemson won’t be returning to Charlotte in December?
Don’t fret. Conference championships are overrated when the consolation prize is an invitation to the Sugar Bowl.
Take care of business this week and next, you can make reservations for dinner New Year’s Eve at Antoine’s. Dabo might pick up the check. His contract includes performance bonuses that kick into gear beginning this week if Clemson beats N.C. State.
The 10th win during the regular season is worth $30,000 – including $10,000 if the team continues to meet satisfactory academic standards. An 11th is worth $40,000 including the academic sidecar, superseding No. 10.
The big money comes during the bowl season. Even by missing the ACC Championship – which was potentially worth $150,000 to him – Swinney would receive $175,000 if the team receives an invitation then wins a BCS bowl game. Playing the game is worth $75,000, winning another $100,000.
Swinney hit many of the incentives in his old contract last year, winning the conference championship and the automatic berth in the Orange Bowl. You recall he was also the Bobby Dodd national coach of the year, which was worth $100,000.
Much of what was earmarked in the agreement, including the guaranteed bump in salary that came from winning the ACC, was redistributed to the staff. That’s how Chad Morris and Brent Venables became the highest paid pair of coordinators on the planet, and at this juncture of the season there’s no reason to question the wisdom of those investments.
A loss Saturday to N.C. State would be out of character though not out of the range of possibilities. Morris’ offense is one of the most productive in the nation, and there’s no denying the improvement in the defense.
Clemson, ranked No. 9, is favored by more than two touchdowns and has covered the line in eight of nine games (the Furman game wasn’t posted).
A year ago Clemson was No. 7 when N.C. State rode four turnovers to an upset in Raleigh. Many of the players in that game will be in Death Valley on Saturday.
Quarterback Mike Glennon and cornerback David Amerson are the gems on the Wolfpack roster, two of the best in the game this season. At 6-foot-6, Glennon has a Peyton Manning view of the field with a similar arm and the savvy to spread to ball around to more than a dozen sets of hands. Swinney compared him to former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.
“They want to put the ball in his hands. I don’t blame them,” Swinney said. “Glennon is the playmaker and he is the distributor.”
“When we do bring pressure we’ve got to win some of those coverage matchups because he is smart and it’s not like you’re going to fool him a lot.”
At 6-foot-3 Amerson and Dontae Johnson are the tallest corners in the nation. Amerson intercepted 13 passes a year ago. With opponents tending to shy away from him, he has only four this season.
“Last year was a freak show,” Swinney said of Amerson’s record-setting season, “that was crazy, what he did.”
Glennon, Amerson and the memory of last year’s disaster are sufficient reasons for Clemson players and coaches not to be seduced by the early conversation about the rivalry game. It was suggested that this could be a “trap game,” should they allow their attention to wander. For fans, probably, and there’s no way to totally insulate players from those conversations.
It is not one in which Swinney engages the team.
“We’ve got to finish better than we did last year to be able to achieve some of the things we want to achieve,” he said. “None of it matters if we don’t take care of our business today.
“We’ve just got to stay focused like we have been.”
If not, it’s the Varsity for chili cheese burgers and fries instead of Antoine’s for shrimp remoulade or beignet at Cafe du Monde or Hurricanes while wandering the streets.
Either way, maybe Dabo will pick up the check.
How’s that for a trap?