Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had a candid response during his press conference Tuesday when asked if the Tigers’ decision to start Trevor Lawrence at quarterback over Kelly Bryant came down to who they believe gives them the best chance to win the national championship.
“Our goal is not to win the national title,” Swinney said. “That’s everybody else’s goal. Our goal is to win the division. Our goal is to beat Syracuse.”
As Swinney alluded to, Clemson’s next team goal is to win the ACC Atlantic Division, the path to which continues with Saturday’s game vs. Syracuse at Death Valley.
After winning the division, the Tigers’ next goals are to win the state (the game vs. South Carolina), win the ACC Championship and win the closer (final game of the season), respectively.
Winning the national title is not one of Clemson’s goals, but Swinney believes his team will have a good shot at that if it accomplishes the rest of its remaining goals.
“That’s never been a goal,” Swinney said of winning it all. “That’s a byproduct of what can happen if you take care of the goals that we have.”
But just for the record, Swinney thinks the Tigers can beat any team in the country with either of their two quarterbacks.
Through four games, Bryant is 36-of-54 passing for 461 yards and two passing touchdowns against one interception with 130 rushing yards and two rushing scores on 30 carries.
Lawrence, meanwhile, has completed 39-of-60 passes for 600 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions as a true freshman.
“I will say this: If the good Lord blessed us and we stayed healthy, these two quarterbacks we’ve got are good enough to beat anybody on any given day,” Swinney said.
As a junior last season, Bryant threw for 2,802 yards, ran for 665 yards and scored 24 total touchdowns while leading the Tigers to a 12-2 record, their third straight ACC Championship and third consecutive appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Bryant took a lot of heat for his performance in Clemson’s season-ending Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama in January, when he went 18-of-36 passing for 124 yards and no touchdowns while throwing a pair of interceptions.
While the numbers weren’t pretty, Swinney had a message for fans who blame Bryant for the loss to ‘Bama.
“Everybody wants to put last year’s Sugar Bowl on Kelly Bryant, and they don’t have a clue what they’re watching,” Swinney said. “They have no idea. They don’t understand what happened in the game, the flow of the game, the circumstances of the game – they have no clue. It’s just like, ‘Oh, Kelly Bryant,’ and that is such a bad narrative. It is so far from reality it’s not even funny. So Kelly can’t win the national championship? Give me a break. That kid can beat anybody, any given day, no doubt about it.”