Can the Tigers go 15-0, again?
Dabo Swinney likes to remind his teams that anything they have done once they have done it again.
In his first full season at Clemson, he guided the Tigers to their first appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Though they lost a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech that night in Tampa, Fla., Swinney promised they would do it again soon, and this time they would finish the job.
He stayed true to his promise. Clemson got back to the ACC title game two years later in 2011 and beat Virginia Tech to win the program its first ACC Championship in 20 years. The win was the Tigers’ 10 of the season, the first time they won 10 games in a season in 21 years. They also clinched a spot in the Orange Bowl, a first for the program in 30 years.
Despite a disappointing loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, Swinney, again, vowed this was not it. The Tigers were going to repeat everything they accomplished in 2011, but the next time they would finish the job.
Since 2011, the Tigers have won 10 or more games every year, something only Alabama can say it has accomplished during that time.
In 2013, Clemson accepted its second bid in three years to the 2014 Orange Bowl Classic and this time it defeated Ohio State, 45-40, to win its first major bowl game since the 1982 Orange Bowl Classic.
In 2015, Clemson won its second ACC Championship in the decade and then won the next three as well. The Tigers also advanced to the College Football Playoff for the first time, a trip they have repeated every year since.
They also went on to play Alabama in the national championship game after starting the year 14-0, which included a win over Oklahoma in the 2016 Orange Bowl Classic. Clemson lost a heartbreaker that night, but again Swinney said the Tigers were not satisfied and it would not take another 34 years for Clemson to play for a national championship again, and the next time they’ll take care of business.
Again, Swinney kept his word. The next season, Clemson went back to the national title game and this time found a way to win it, as Deshaun Watson threw a 2-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left to beat Alabama, 35-31.
So last year, Swinney told his senior class all year, what they have done once, they have always done twice. The goal for the 2018 seniors was to go win a second national championship, which we all know they did by spanking Alabama, 44-16, in the CFP National Championship Game.
However, along the way, they did something no one in the modern era of college football has done … they went 15-0.
They also finished with a 55-4 record in their Clemson careers, tied with Alabama’s 2018 seniors for the best in NCAA history.
I bet you can guess what Swinney will be telling the 2019 seniors.
The 2019 Clemson seniors enter the year with a 41-3 career record in Tigertown, which is tied with Alabama’s 2019 seniors. If the Tigers can repeat history, which they have been known to do under Swinney, and go 15-0, this year’s group of seniors will end their careers as the winningest senior class in the history of college football.
You can be certain, Swinney will be reminding his players that anything they have done once, they’ve done it again.