Monday Morning Quarterback
Can you imagine what was going through Dabo Swinney’s mind 10 years ago when he brought Clemson to Boston to face the Boston College Eagles back on November 1, 2008?
At the time, he was still just an interim head coach. As a matter of fact, the Tigers’ trip to Chestnut Hill, Mass., that afternoon was just the second game of his head coaching career. At the time, no one in college football could have ever imagined what Swinney was about to build.
Those Clemson Tigers did like everyone of Swinney’s teams have done since. They put their head down, went to work and found a way to win a football game no one thought they could.
Clemson won on that cold afternoon at Alumni Stadium, 27-21. Its first win under Dabo Swinney.
Fast forward to 10 years and nine days later, at that same stadium, Clemson was again celebrating a first following its 27-7 win over the Eagles. It was celebrating a fourth straight division title, a first in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“You know,” said Swinney, “I think back to ten years ago, almost to the day, and that first win, and here we are tonight winning our fourth (straight) division title. Man, I just … first of all, I’m just thankful to the good Lord for giving me the opportunity, and I’m thankful to all the young men that have been in our program the last ten years that have helped establish a standard and a culture that we enjoy.”
Now, 10 years and 131 wins later, Clemson has become the most dominant program in the ACC. Saturday’s win was the program’s seventh division title in the last 10 seasons and the Tigers hope to make it a fifth ACC Championship when they play the Coastal Division winner in the ACC Championship Game on Dec.1, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Since 2015, Clemson is 32-2, including three wins in ACC Championship Games, against conference foes. The Tigers have won 13 more wins than the next closest team in the ACC … Miami and Pitt are tied for second with 19 wins.
Next to Florida State’s unprecedented run of nine straight conference titles from 1992-2000, no ACC program has dominated the league like Clemson has done in the last four seasons.
Since the league incorporated a conference championship game in 2005, no program has won four consecutive ACC Championships. Clemson has won the last three and can make it a fourth straight in a few weeks.
“I think the biggest thing is just what I try to tell my players all the time. ‘Just be so busy trying to do your very best, you don’t get distracted by nonsense or things that don’t matter,’ even distracted about the future or anything like that,” Swinney said. “You just put your head down and go to work, and then all of a sudden you look up and you will be like, ‘Man, we have come a long way.’
“That is kind of what we have done as a program here over the last ten years.”
Since that faithful day when Swinney asked a group of men, who came to Clemson to play for someone else, to trust in him and believe in him, and believe that things will turn around, Clemson has become one of the nation’s elite football programs.
Saturday’s win at BC represented the program’s 10th win in 2018, the eighth straight season the Tigers have won 10 or more games – tied for the third longest streak in the history of college football.
To go along with their four ACC Championships, are three College Football Playoff berths, a national championship and two national championship game appearances.
Since 2011, the first year the program won 10 games in a season, the Tigers are 92-15 overall (.860), second only to Alabama during this stretch.
“To have eight 10-plus-win-seasons is incredible,” Swinney said.
Against ACC competition, Clemson heads into the final conference game of the regular season Saturday against Duke with a 59-8 record, including four wins in ACC Championship Games, since the start of the 2011 season. The next closest team in the league is Florida State at 47-19.
“We have just kind of been so busy going about our business and what we do and always trying to get better, but I’m just very humbled by it and honored and thankful to all the men that have come in here and have been a part of it. It has been a lot of fun,” Swinney said. “We just try to be the best version of us each and every year. We start over every year and don’t really spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other people. We just try to be the best Clemson that we can be. That is where we are right now, and we are thankful for that.
“We have definitely enjoyed this journey, but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot more that we want to achieve.”