By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Even if the check was deposited there’s no guarantee South Carolina State will roll over and play dead.
Eight teams were paid as much as $450,000 last week as guests of college football royalty and forgot why they were invited including Eastern Washington which became only the third Football Championship Sub-Division team to beat a nationally ranked major-college program.
Clemson has reasonable expectations of winning Saturday’s game. The Vegas line says Clemson is favored by 52 points. South Carolina State, who visits Death Valley on Saturday, lost to Coastal Carolina in its opener. Somebody joked that one of the keys to the game is a card that looks like it opens a hotel room.
Even though it’s officially listed as a sellout, there probably will be several no-shows in Death Valley because fans are consistently undependable. There won’t be an ESPN GameDay set or a national television audience, and most in the stadium will be gone by the end of the third quarter so they can catch kickoff of the Georgia-South Carolina game.
Dabo Swinney will probably punch the same buttons that propelled Clemson over Georgia. His mantra is “consistency.”
“If you come out and turn it over and you’re not dialed in with your execution and you’re playing a team with the exact opposite – high energy, they are dialed in and playing with passion and toughness – you get beat,” he said.
Since the NCAA renamed Division I-AA the Football Championship Sub-Division in 1978, Clemson has a 26-0 record against teams from that neighborhood and have won by an average score of 37-7. Clemson’s one hiccup was a 35-27 win over Wofford in 2011.
“I remember walking off the field at halftime two years ago against Wofford, and we were getting booed,” Swinney said. “I was booing with them.”
Asked if it may be difficult to match the emotion that permeated every pore in Death Valley last week, Swinney could only hope not. When he was a receivers coach on Tommy Bowden’s staff, Swinney would remind his guys of the inordinate time they invested for the opportunity to play 12 times a year.
“If we only play with emotion because we’re on GameDay or because we’re playing UGA, we’ll never be a consistently great program,” Swinney said. “To me you ought to have great emotion to play the game.
“I don’t care who the name on a Saturday is. Think about all the time you’re out there paying a price, grinding, in meetings. You get an opportunity to go play. Get excited.”
Coaches claim a team’s improvement should be most evident from the first to the second game, and so, too, Swinney. Imperfect against Georgia, he wants to see several players step up their game, others he just wants to see on the field as Clemson continues to cultivate its depth.
And he doesn’t want to do it at the expense of the opponent’s dignity.
“I’ve never been a guy that wants to beat a guy 70-0,” he said. “When you put in the backups you want to do what you do. You want to teach your guys to have some class. I want to win, but win with class.”
Still, the reality is that schools such as these aren’t paid to win.
Florida A&M, which lost 70-17 last season to South Florida, will get $650,000 to play at Oklahoma this week. App State, which received $400,000 for the Michigan game in 2007, has an agreement for $850,000 to return next year.
S.C. State will receive $275,000 and 3,000 tickets to visit Death Valley today, money welcomed by an athletic department run on a shoestring. Five years ago Clemson won by 54 points.
Swinney prefers to pay it forward to the state’s teams if Clemson is going to schedule teams like S.C. State.
Unless they play opossum and bite.