Coconut Creek, FL– After a rather uneventful rivalry weekend, Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tiger team approach this weekend’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game in Orlando with a certain assurance. They know with their current ranking of No.4 in the College Football Rankings –bolstered by a Michigan loss to Ohio State as the former No. 3–now creates an opening for the Tigers to fit securely in the top four with a win over Virginia Tech on Saturday at 8 PM.
When asked yesterday during a Q&A with the media prior to the ACC finale’, Swinney spoke with perspective.
“It’s our sixth 10-plus win season in a row, and we want nothing more than to get our 16th ACC title. That’s what it’s all about for us. You work all year, and it comes down to these four quarters. We talk about the playoffs; every game is a playoff. Every game of the season is a playoff. You’re trying to win your division. Every game matters. You’re trying to win this conference. Every game matters.
And now it comes down to these final four quarters, and you’re either going to be the champion or you’re not.
We’re just honored to have the opportunity.”
It’s a tremendous opportunity indeed. With a win, Clemson would earn back to back ACC titles for the first time in 28 years. They’d also head back to the College Football Playoffs for the second year in a row, a place Swinney didn’t think would really be possible based on just how difficult it is to do as a program.
“Well, it’s rare air. This is the first time that I’ve had a team that’s been able to do this, to be in back to back ACC Championship games,…so it’s not easy to do. It’s really difficult. So I’m just proud of our guys. It is, it’s very hard to win, especially to win consistently when you get everybody’s best, and for the past several years that’s exactly what we’ve done and what we’ve gotten from our opponents.”
But getting this far is the hard part that’s now over. Clemson is one win away from being back in the College Football Playoff and representing the ACC.
A loss would likely leave them wanting as Ohio State, a one-loss team not playing in their league championship was ranked No. 2 in last week’s CFP polls. Ohio State appears to be sitting pretty nice, even if Penn State wins the Big Ten largely due to strength of schedule. Penn State beat Ohio State head to head earlier this season.
Despite the variables the committee has to take into account, Clemson’s case is easy. Win and you’re in. Only Alabama has this clear a path to the playoffs. It’s a spot of luxury in what can potentially be a pivotal year for the College Football Playoffs, especially given the potential volatility that a league champ being left out would cause.
Clemson and Virginia Tech will square off Saturday at 8 PM on ABC at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.