Clemson knows where it is going, Pitt is trying to find its way

Clemson knows where it is going, Pitt is trying to find its way

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Clemson knows where it is going, Pitt is trying to find its way

Clemson is 6-2 in the postseason since 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When pulling in into Bank of America Stadium Friday afternoon to participate in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game’s press conference, Dabo Swinney knew right where to go.

Ross Taylor, Clemson’s new athletic communications director for football, is making his first trip with the second-ranked Tigers to the ACC Championship Game, so he was not sure where he needed to take Swinney when they pulled up at the stadium. Luckily for Ross, Swinney was making his sixth appearance in the ACC Championship Game, including his fourth in Charlotte.

“I did not have to have directions to get here. Ross did,” Swinney said. “I was telling Ross where to go, ‘pull into Panthers’ parking lot, go left. We’ll come around the back.’ It was kind of nice to know where we were going.”

Playing at Bank of America Stadium has been nice to the Tigers. Including a neutral site game vs. Temple in 2006 and the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl, Clemson is 4-1 all-time here. The Tigers have won their last three here, all in the ACC Championship Game.

“It was nice to walk out in the stadium when I got here. Man, it’s a beautiful stadium,” Swinney said. “We’ve had some great moments. It’s neat to be able to come back to a place you have some really good memories.”

Clemson’s last memory at Bank of American Stadium was a 35-3 victory over Miami in last year’s title game. The Tigers jumped on the ‘Canes early and were never seriously challenged as they ran away with their third straight ACC Championship.

The Tigers (12-0, 8-0 ACC) are hoping that kind of experience will pay off today when it plays Pittsburgh in the 2018 ACC Championship Game (8 p.m./ABC). The Panthers are making their first appearance in the league title game after joining the conference in 2014.

“I definitely think experience is a positive,” Swinney said. “I don’t think it’s a negative. I think when you have a lot of experience doing something, there is some confidence that can come from that.

“You still got to go do it. We still got a lot of guys on our team, this is their first experience. So, I think no matter how much we’ve experienced things as coaches, you always have new players that it’s a first experience for them. So, you kind of rely on the veteran guys to help you.”

Playing in big games and on the big stages is nothing new for Clemson. After all, the Tigers’ seniors have played in two national championship games, three College Football Playoff semifinal games and three ACC Championship games.

They have also had success winning those games. Clemson is 6-2 in the postseason since 2015, including a national championship in 2016.

Pitt (7-5, 6-2 ACC) on the other hand isn’t used to be on this kind of stage with so many people watching and a championship at stake. The Panthers have not played for any kind of championship, in a one-game setting like the ACC Championship Game, since winning the National Championship in 1976.

In other words, this is a whole new experience for the Pitt program.

However, head coach Pat Narduzzi is banking on the fact he has 19 seniors, who have waited for this moment for four years, to make sure this moment is not too big for the Panthers.

“This just didn’t happen in a year,” Narduzzi said. “This has been a four-year process. Every senior that has gone through this program in the last four years knows this is a goal that we have had, something we walk down our steps, down to our training room, locker room, weight room, walk back up to our team meeting rooms.

“In the coach’s office there is a picture of the Charlotte stadium, Panther Stadium, which is where we wanted to be. Our kids are thinking about that every day when they walk up and down those steps, that’s the stadium we want to be in, and now we’re here.”

Now that Pitt is here, what is it going to do about it.

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