John Simpson, Clemson’s starting left guard, came into the Poe Indoor Practice Facility on Monday feeling good.
He and the rest of the second-ranked Tigers are coming of a trip to Boston where they went up North and took care of business. They not only beat the then 17th-ranked Eagles by 20 points, but they also wrapped up their fourth consecutive ACC Atlantic Division Championship in the process.
“It feels amazing just knowing we completed that task,” Simpson said. “We, obviously, are not done yet. We still have a lot ahead of us, but it does feel great knowing we have that accomplished.”
But as Simpson said there is more to be accomplished, which is what makes Saturday’s home game against Duke (7 p.m., ESPN) every bit as important.
Clemson (10-0, 7-0 ACC) aspires to win more than just a division championship. They also want to make the College Football Playoff and have a shot at playing for another national championship as well. To do those things, the Tigers must first beat the Blue Devils.
“These guys have big picture goals in mind. They understand to be able to accomplish big picture goals, they understand that they have to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and one week at a time,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.
Some think the Blue Devils (7-3, 3-3 ACC) could possibly sneak up on the Tigers at Death Valley on Saturday, thinking the Tigers could have a letdown with the Boston College game now behind them and rival South Carolina coming up next week.
In other words, it is the “proverbial sandwich game.” Plus, there is the fact, as far as the ACC race goes, this game means nothing to Clemson in conference play now that they have won the division and advanced to the Dec. 1 ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“Coach Swinney always tells us we have to look forward to the task at hand, and not worry about what we have accomplished. Don’t look in the rearview mirror, but keep looking forward,” Simpson said. “We just have to focus on what is next to come.”
Right now, that is Duke, who is having one of its better seasons under 11th year head coach David Cutcliffe.
“The mentality for us is every game is the biggest game of the season,” Elliott said. “Obviously, the fun is in the winning, so they know you have fun when you win, but they know what it takes to win.
“The young guys do a great job of coming in the door very, very humble. You talk about some of the high-profile guys that have come in the door and they just simulate into the culture and that is what breeds the success.”