ORLANDO, Fla. – As third-ranked Clemson traveled down to Orlando, head coach Dabo Swinney participated in a press conference with No. 18 Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente to discuss the ACC Championship game.
Here is what we heard:
Fuente expressed how big of a challenge Clemson’s offense will be for the Hokies, but Swinney said that he’s looking forward to seeing how the matchup between the secondary and the receivers pan out for both teams.
“It is going to be a fun matchup for both sides, their secondary and our secondary going against both of these sets of receivers.”
While turnovers have been an issue for Clemson this season, Swinney said that winning some of the close games despite turnovers helped the Tigers build some confidence.
“The reason we have been in those tight games, a big reason outside of playing good teams is we have had an enormous amount of turnovers. If you look at the close games that we have had this year, we played Louisville in a close game, they are a pretty good team, pretty good player. We had five turnovers and still won,” Swinney said. “I think that builds confidence.”
Swinney also noted that last year’s experience of winning the ACC Championship taught the team a lot about what it takes to succeed.
“I think the experience of our team last year was tremendous. We don’t really do anything different. It is just the next game. It is the championship game. There is no next Saturday. As far as our preparation, we don’t really do anything different. It is the same as far as how we get ready. We truly believe every game is a championship game. That is how you get to these types of games. You have that mentality all throughout the season. If you don’t, then you have a hard time getting to this spot. The biggest difference is these guys know truly every play Saturday night is a championship play and somebody is going to hold a trophy up when the game is over,” Swinney said. “I think the experience that they can draw on from last year of playing in this 13th game is priceless. I think experience is your greatest teacher.”
It helps that the leader of Clemson’s offense is dedicated to preparing for every aspect of every game.
“He just never shuts it off,” Swinney said. “Deshaun (Watson), when he shows up on Mondays, He’s already got three pages of notes. He’s already watched all the games, he has already got his questions, he already got his suggestions, he already got ‘listen, these are problems how are we going to handle this?’ He is just an unbelievable preparer.”
Although the Tigers are aware of the impact this game has on their playoff potential, Swinney said that he takes as much pressure off of them as he can.
“I just try to relieve all that from these guys. They all know it is a big game. They don’t live in a cave. I try to make sure we are having some fun along the way. Let’s make it about Clemson, let’s stay focused on what is real, what is not real. Our staff does a great job with when we win games, there’s still things we’ve got to correct, We lost a game, there was a lot of good. We grow every week. We truly try to keep a windshield mentality of what’s next.”