By Will Vandervort.
That’s the philosophy Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has as he prepares his 17th-ranked Tigers to play Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla.
It has worked pretty well the last couple of years as Clemson won back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since the 2004 Peach Bowl win over Tennessee and the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl victory over Colorado.
The last two years, the Tigers have taken down college football powers LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl and Ohio State in the 2014 Orange Bowl. Swinney’s teams are 3-3 in bowl games, while Clemson is 18-18 overall in 36 bowl appearances.
“I really like the plan we have had in place the last couple of years,” the Clemson coach said. “This year is a little different because we are playing earlier so we had to kind of adjust a few things there. We are not going to get in quite as many practices as we had when we were playing Jan. 1 or Jan. 3 or 5 or whatever these dates are. But the 29th is a little bit different – Christmas. This group here has not done that so that is all a little bit different.”
The Tigers (9-3) will get the weekend and next Monday off before reconvening in Orlando on Dec. 23. They will begin practice at the bowl site on Dec. 24. But with the Holiday Season and all the distractions that come with a bowl game, Swinney wants to have the same approach he had in the wins over LSU and Ohio State – get most of their work done this week in Clemson.
“We have a lot of work to do this week, a lot of work,” he said. “This is where the game is won, right here. When we leave town and we show up (in Orlando) we have to feel like we deserve to win based on what we have got done up here so it is a big week for Cole (Stoudt) and it is a big week for everybody as far as getting the game plan down.”
Clemson will cover a lot of the fundaments this week, will go over technique as well as work on Clemson. With the team being off the practice field for a couple of weeks, there is a lot of good-on-good going on just to kind of knock off the rust and get everyone back in the flow of practice and playing football.
The key thing says Swinney, is to make sure the team understands the game plan and is not overworked.
“I don’t believe on being on the field long. When you have this amount of time to prepare, the worst thing you can do is over prepare,” he said. “So we try to keep it fast and everyone has to be organized and efficient with our time.
“Let’s get all the work we can get done.”
And the goal is to have it all done by this coming Friday.
“When you get to the bowl site, and you have heard me say this many times, there are so many things going on and so many distractions that if you think you are going to go down there and game plan, that is a disaster,” Swinney said. “We want to get down there and polish. Dot the Is and cross the Ts and continue to take ownership of the plan. Right now is when the bulk of the work has to get done.”
And with the recent success the Tigers have had in bowl games – who is going to argue with that?