Dabo Swinney always likes to say, “This game is the biggest game of the year.”
He says it as a way to make sure his team’s focus is on the task at hand and not what is going to come down the road. It is a philosophy that has worked well in his 13 seasons as Clemson’s head coach.
However, Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kick against Boston College is not just a saying this week, it is the Tigers’ biggest game of the season. Thanks to last week’s loss at NC State, Clemson cannot afford another loss in the ACC if it hopes to win a seventh consecutive ACC Championship.
In fact, even if the Tigers win the rest of their remaining conference games, there is no guarantee at this moment that will be enough to earn them a spot in the ACC Championship Game. They also need NC State to lose two conference games in the next eight weeks.
“Right now, we can’t control any of that. NC State, they are in full control of the [Atlantic] division now with the win over us. So, it is just one week at a time,” safety Nolan Turner said. “Control, what we can control. Come in and put the work in today. Have a great day, today. Then when you start stacking those days on top of each other, you will end up getting the results you want.”
The Tigers’ current situation is one they have not really been in during their string of championships, which began back in 2015. Even when they lost to Syracuse in 2017, Clemson was still in control of its own destiny because the Orange was not a contending team in the division.
In 2016, Clemson lost to Pittsburgh, but the Panthers are in the Coastal Division of the ACC, so the Tigers were able to clinch the Atlantic Division championship the following week with a win over Wake Forest.
But this time around, the Tigers have some work to do before they can even think about playing for another ACC Championship. And, as I said, even then it might not be enough.
“It is all about the work you put in and the commitment you have on a day-to-day basis,” Turner said. “That is just how I have always gone about my work and how I come in here and play. So, just go to work today and the rest will take care of itself.”
In other words, the Tigers just need to go have fun and play football.
“The season is not over. We have eight games left. We have a lot of football in front of us,” Turner said. “Regardless of what happens, I just enjoy going out there and competing. So, there is a lot of motivation in going out there and playing well. You want to go out there and put good stuff on tape and go play for the fans.
“You want to go out there and put on a show. So, that is what we are going to do these last eight games we have ahead of us.”
And that is a great plan.