When they were riding from the stadium to the airport following their 35-point win over Louisville on Saturday, Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, and the other coaches, kind of joked around about how far the media was going to move them down the top 25 poll this week.
“We wondered how far we will slide now,” Scott said laughing Monday as he recalled the conversation.
The Tigers, who have won 22 straight games, fell from No. 3 to No. 4 in the Associated Press Poll despite their 45-10 win at Louisville. It was the second straight week and the third time in the last four weeks they have fallen in the media poll.
Clemson (7-0, 5-0 ACC) has won its last two games by 31 and 35 points and has fallen from No. 2 to No. 4 in poll.
“Somebody told me yesterday we have won five games by 31 points or more. Bama is No. 1 and they have won three, and two of them were versus group of five (teams),” Scott said. “That is not really the rhetoric that we are seeing out there. So, I think it is just natural that when you have won as many games as we have won, I can remember as a college football fan, that gets old at some point.
“Whenever somebody else is winning that much, it is just natural. For us, we just really kind of laugh about it and joke around about it.”
Clemson’s fall from the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll without losing is common in the history of the poll. However, the extent of which the Tigers have fallen is not.
The last time the preseason No. 1 team dropped as far or farther without a loss was Oklahoma in 1977. The Sooners fell to No. 5 in the poll. In 1971, Notre Dame had a similar slip in the polls, as it dropped all the way to No. 7 without losing a game in the first five weeks.
“Me, personally, I have the mentality that it’s us against the world,” linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “I feel like everybody else should as well. It’s always seemed like everybody wants Clemson to go down. They’re probably getting tired of seeing us play Alabama. But those rankings and stuff, they don’t matter right now.
“There are still teams that could lose to anybody at any given moment. You’ve seen Wisconsin lose to a lesser team and Georgia lost to a lesser team as well. Right now, it really doesn’t mean anything. We’re only halfway through the season. When it comes to the end of the season, whatever the rankings are, I guess that’s when it will really matter.”
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says they are doing all they can do. If somebody does not like them or think they are not worthy enough, then there is not anything they will be able to do about it. They just have to worry about controlling the things they can control.
“We’re just going to keep doing the same thing. We can’t really do anything else,” he said. “I think, personally, I can play a little better but, as far as the team, the last two weeks we’ve played well, and we’ve won by big margins. Other than that, I don’t know what else we can do.
“That’s what Coach (Dabo) Swinney always says, ‘Don’t try to control things that you can’t control.’ We can’t control what they’re going to rank us and that’s obvious after the last two weeks. We’re just going to keep playing, and in the end, it’ll work itself out.”
The joke around Clemson about the AP Poll is that if Clemson keeps beating teams by 30 or more points, they will slip out of the top 10 by December.
“It is really something we laugh about a little bit. But truthfully, what we know is that we have been here before and we trust our plan,” Scott said. “We trust our preparation, stay focused and locked in, keep two hands on the wheel and focus on what matters. Let’s go 1-0 this week. Winning our division is our next goal.
“It has worked out for us every year that we have been able to stay focused on that, so we really have zero concern that it will not work out this year if we stay focused. It is hard enough getting ready for one opponent every week and if you are worried about playing that opponent and four other opponents out there, you are not going to be your best.”
Scott says the reason Clemson has been able to win as many games as it has and make the College Football Playoff in each of the last four years, is the consistency they have had to stay focused on the goals and not listen to what is happening outside the Allen Reeves Football Complex.
“Our guys have truly stayed locked in and focused on doing our part, and then to everybody’s disappointment we show up in December and we are where we want to be and that just feels like what is probably going to happen if we stay focused on take care of our business,” he said. “It just feels like that has kind of been our position and it has worked well for us. I think, if the shoe fits wear it.
“We are that horse that is kind of waiting back there and then all of sudden we start making our gains when it really matters here. We get into that Championship Phase. It is really something that is not talked about a whole lot. Our guys know. We do have a young team and we have some new guys we have to educate and keep them kind of informed on what really matters. We also have a lot of experienced guys that know if we stay locked into our formula and stay focused, we are going to have a great chance to be where we want to be at the end.”
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