How are the Tigers handling the high expectations?
Clemson is already ranked as the No. 2 team in the country, according to the Amway USA TODAY Coaches Poll, heading into the 2018 season.
Earlier this week, ESPN’s Football Poll Index (FPI) has the Tigers ranked No.1 and according to ESPN’s matrix, Clemson has a 67-percent chance to make the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year.
Everywhere you look, the Tigers are considered one of the favorites to contend for another national championship. The faces of defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant are on the front of just about every national, regional or local preseason magazine.
Everybody loves Clemson. So, the question is how does Clemson handle it?
“Every year is the same thing,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “How I get to it and what I expose myself to? I know how to win. I am used to winning and this is the process in how you have a chance to win.
“I don’t really change things. If there has been this chatter every single year, I don’t notice it. Some years there is not, I don’t notice it. I mean that. I don’t really worry about that because I don’t change. I lead my guys.”
That process has worked for Venables and the Tigers the last few years. The coaches’ ranking marks the third straight season Clemson has opened the year ranked in the top 5 of a major poll. The Tigers have been ranked inside the top 10 of a major poll for 43 consecutive weeks overall.
“It is more about being consistent and continuously instructing what we are doing,” Venables said. “You don’t take anything for granted. We have always said every year you have to start over and again, systematically how you get a team ready, how you get a group of players ready, you deal with what you have. You can deviate just a little bit, but not too much.”
There was a time at Clemson when the Tigers did not handle expectations too well. That’s when the word “Clemsoning” was born in the sport. However, since 2011, the Tigers have finished higher or the same in every final top 25 poll from where they were ranked in the preseason poll. Those seven straight years is an FBS all-time record in the poll era, which began in 1936.
They even did it in 2016 when they were the preseason No. 2 ranked team. They finished No. 1 in the country and won the national championship after beating Alabama in the 2016 national championship game.
“(Dabo Swinney) is the glass is always half full. He is very demanding. He has high standards,” Venables said. “He does not comprise the integrity of this program for any player or any coach. We do things a certain way when we get ready.”
And that’s why everybody loves Clemson. Weather the Tigers are ranked second in the country or not at all, the expectation is always the same. Best is the standard at Clemson and that is never going to change, at least under Dabo Swinney it’s not.