What were you doing the last time Clemson’s football program started a season ranked No. 1 in the country? Oh yeah! That’s right, the Tigers have never been ranked No. 1 heading into a new season.
The highest ranking any Clemson team has had coming into a season is No. 2, which has happened on just two occasions. The Tigers began the 2016 and 2018 seasons as the preseason No. 2 team. We all know how those two years turned out.
So, how will Clemson handle the expectations that come with being the No. 1 team in the country? It will be an interesting angle for the 2019 season.
One thing head coach Dabo Swinney has always been able to use as motivation is the underdog card. He likes to use the “Little Ole Clemson” theme when going up against the big boys like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
It has paid off quite handsomely, but Clemson is no longer the little brother to those elite programs. It has since grown up and is now beating up on its big brothers quite regularly.
So, does Swinney have any more ammunition left in the whole motivation gun? He just might.
Remember all that fodder coming out of Alabama about how worn down and mentally fatigue the Crimson Tide was before playing Clemson. People were making excuses for Alabama losing by 28 points to the Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Even Alabama was.
On the outside, Swinney told The Clemson Insider recently he is not worried about any of those excuses or the things being said.
“That was last year. It is what it is, we won the game,” he said. “Whether you win by one point or whatever the score was, I mean, we won, and you move on.”
Clemson has moved on, but has Alabama? And has Alabama’s whining given Swinney the ammunition he needs to keep his football team hungry for a repeat in 2019?
“Alabama is not going nowhere,” he said. “They are an unbelievable champion. They are the model of consistency. Our game against them last year does not change that. We are not trying to catch Alabama or pass Alabama or any of that. We are just trying to be the best Clemson we can be year in and year out regardless of what anybody else is doing out there.
“That is really my focus day in and day out and year in and year out.”