It is right at 100 days since Clemson opened the 2017 football season, and on Saturday the fourth-ranked Tigers have an opportunity to achieve their second goal of the season.
Clemson’s five goals for every year are well documented, and with a win over rival Florida State in Death Valley the Tigers can check the second item off on their list of goals … winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division. The first item of course was winning the season opener, which the Tigers easily accomplished with a win over Kent State back on Sept. 2.
“We have more opportunities here at home, and this is where you hope to be,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s what it’s all about. You work all year to put yourself in position to have a chance to achieve your goals. We’ve only hit one goal. And here we are going down the home stretch now.”
Swinney calls this stretch the championship phase of the season. If the Tigers beat the Seminoles they will advance to next month’s ACC Championship Game where they will get the opportunity to check off goal No. 4 on their list. In between, is a date with rival South Carolina to see who will be claimed the best team in the Palmetto State … goal No. 3.
“I was just talking to Christian (Wilkins) about it. This is our favorite time of the year because every week we play for something big,” Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “It’s like we are playing for a championship every week.”
If the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) can survive the next few weeks, then they can be playing for something more than just winning division, state and conference championships. They will have an opportunity to play for another national championship as well.
Currently, the defending national champions are ranked No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff Committee’s Rankings, and every week from this point on is like a defacto playoff game in and of itself.
“We’ve got an opportunity to do a lot, but… the rest of our season really hinges on these next four quarters,” Swinney said. “This is championship football for us.”
The Tigers championship phase began last week in Raleigh, N.C., where they came from behind in the second half to knock off the Wolfpack in a game that gave them control of the Atlantic. This week, they can clinch the division with a win over FSU or a NC State loss at Boston College.
“We needed that win to have a chance to play in the championship game and win the division,” Ferrell said. “After that we play the Citadel on Military Appreciation Day and then South Carolina is going to be the state championship. Hopefully, we make it to the ACC Championship again.
“From every week on, it’s just another big game so it’s another championship game. That’s what I love about it, to go out there and have the opportunity to win the conference, which is one of our goals, but we have to win the division first.”