It is easy to see what Dabo Swinney’s message is to his team this year.
“Leave no doubt.”
We have already heard players like Trevor Lawrence, Nolan Turner, Xavier Thomas and others use this phrase several times this year.
So far, even though they haven’t played their best game, the Tigers have left no doubt on who has been the better team the first two weeks of the season. In different ways, they have physically dominated their first two opponents in Georgia Tech and No. 16 Texas A&M.
Why is it so important the Tigers leave no doubt? Well, they really have no choice.
As it looks right now, the Aggies appear to be the only opponent Clemson will play as a ranked team in the regular season. So, the only will way for the Tigers to continue to impress the College Football Playoff Committee is to “leave no doubt” in their mind how good of a team they are.
I have said this often to those who know me. This year’s Clemson team will have to be like the 1999 Florida State team. Those Seminoles became the first team in FBS history to go “wire-to-wire” as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team from the preseason through the bowl season.
The 1999 Florida State team won 8 of their 12 games by 23 or more points, including five games by 31 or more points. The Seminoles average margin of victory that year was 21.3 points per game. The beat four teams—Virginia Tech, Florida, Miami and Georgia Tech—that finished ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Those Seminoles, in most cases, left no doubt on who was the best team in the country. It was easy to see they played that way for much of the year. They were also the only Bobby Bowden coached team at FSU to finish a season undefeated.
Clemson (2-0, 1-0 ACC) likely will not play another ranked opponent until the postseason. So, it is important for the Tigers to show how good they really are.
Why is this so important?
First of all, they want to get into the CFP. But they also want to own the No. 1 ranking in the CFP, which will allow the Tigers to play at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta in the CFP Semifinals. It’s not the Tigers would mind playing in the Fiesta Bowl again, the other CFP Semifinal site, but playing in Atlanta, as opposed to Phoenix, would be a lot easier on their fans and they would be playing close to home. Atlanta is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive down 1-85.
This week, the top-ranked Tigers will continue their quest to “leave no doubt” when they play at Syracuse Saturday (7:30p.m.) at The Dome.
The Orange has been a pesky opponent for Clemson the last two years, even beating the Tigers at The Dome in their last visit there in 2017. Coming off a 43-point loss at Maryland last week, Syracuse will want to prove a point itself on Saturday and will likely give Clemson all it has.
So, if the Tigers want to leave Syracuse still undefeated, they better bring their “leave no doubt” mentality.
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