By Will Vandervort
When Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney left his press conference following Saturday’s win over S.C. State, he flashed Miami’s “U” sign to a couple of people in attendance. It was more of a gesture in fun than anything else, but it did capture the attention of the media that were on hand.
Earlier in the week, the Clemson coach said the third-ranked Tigers’ win over then No. 5 Georgia was more about Clemson than the Atlantic Coast Conference, but thanks to Miami’s win over No. 12 Florida, Swinney was all of sudden boasting about the ACC.
With the Hurricanes’ victory, the ACC is now 2-2 this year against the mighty Southeastern Conference and both of those wins came against top 12 competition. The SEC’s two wins against the ACC so far this year came against unranked Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
“It was a big win for Clemson and it was for Miami,” Swinney said in a teleconference Monday. “As a side (note) to that, it is good for the ACC. People always ask me about the ACC vs. the SEC the last few years and my answer has always been, ‘Listen, you have to win games. It is just that simple. There is nothing anybody can do about anything until you win games so it is good to see teams take advantage of some opportunities.”
With the exception of Clemson the last couple of years, few in the ACC have beat SEC foes. The conference is 2-11 when you take out the Tigers’ victories over Auburn, LSU and Georgia since 2011.
The Tigers are the only school in college football history to beat two top 10 schools from the SEC in consecutive games. Since 2010, SEC teams have lost only eight non-conference games and four of those have come to Clemson.
The Tigers have five wins over SEC opponents since 2009, and none of those are against SEC rival South Carolina.
But Clemson’s wins over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to end last season, along with the victory over Georgia to start this year and now Miami’s win over Florida and suddenly the ACC is starting to gain a lot more respect nationally.
“There is relief when you win any game,” Swinney said. “It’s hard to win, period. It does not matter who you play. But whenever you win a game, it is a relief because you achieved your goal and your objective because if you don’t win that game then that game all of a sudden becomes really important to a lot of people.
“You cannot ever take winning for granted, regardless of who you are playing. Too much has to go right and there are too many good coaches and too many good players out there.”
It’s time to turn attention to ACC. The Tigers might have the week off, but Swinney says they will begin preparing for NC State on Tuesday. Clemson will visit Carter-Finely Stadium on Sept. 19 for its ACC opener.
Swinney says they will practice Tuesday-Thursday before getting Friday off. Then they will practice on Saturday to begin what will be a normal game week with the game being played next Thursday night.
“It is time to get started on NC State,” Swinney said. “It is a huge, huge game because it is on the road, it is in the conference and it is in the division.
“It’s a tough place to play. Teams have not done a good job in that environment and we know that very well because we went up there and really played poor a couple of years ago. We have a lot of work to do.”
ACC Rookie of the Week: Clemson wide receiver Germone Hopper was named ACC Rookie of the Week after he recorded six receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson’s 52-13 win over South Carolina State. He had TD catches of 17 and 26 yards on passes from QB Cole Stoudt. Hopper is the first Tiger freshman to catch two touchdown passes in a game since Sammy Watkins did it on multiple occasions in 2011.
Hopper led Clemson in catches and reception yards in Saturday’s 39-point win.