But not for the reason most people think
When Dabo Swinney sees, hears or reads his 2018 team is motivated by what happened in last year’s Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama, he just shakes his head.
“That is not accurate,” he said.
Clemson lost 24-6 to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinals to end the 2017 season, and as disappointing as that was, it did not define that team nor has it been the lone motivating element for this year’s team, which will begin fall camp on Friday.
“Does that mean when we won the (national championship), we were not fueled to go do it again last year? But we were,” Swinney said. “In fact, we overachieved according to the preseason rankings and what we were picked to do last year.
“I think winning the national championship was an incredible motivating factor last year because you want to go do it again. Can having a negative experience help? Yeah, that can be a motivating factor, too. But, I don’t think either one is more.”
There are no doubts the Tigers, who should be picked No. 1 or No. 2 when the USA TODAY Coaches Preseason Poll is released today, will be motivated to win another ACC Championship and get back to the CFP, but last year is just part of the reason.
Clemson returns 17 starters from last year’s team, and some of those 17 starters, especially on defense, played a big part in the Tigers’ 2016 national championship. They know what it takes to win at the highest level. They know the sacrifices that have to be made and they know motivation only gets them so far.
“I think that this team, like all of our teams, we go back to work every year. We start over,” Swinney said. “We evaluate and we start our journey. We have a very highly motivated team driven by incredible experience.
“We have a senior group that has won 40 games in three years. They have won three conference titles and have been to three playoffs. They want to put an exclamation point on their careers.”
Swinney admits they were all disappointed about losing last year’s Sugar Bowl and it will serve as some motivation, but maybe not in the way everyone thinks.
“They’re disappointed they lost that last game. That is a goal, win the closer,” he said. “We did not achieve one of our goals so it would be great to achieve that goal and all of our goals this year. We want to be the very best that we can be. We can live with whatever result we get.
“This is definitely a motivated team, but not just because we got beat in the last game.”
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!