1) A little insight from Dabo Swinney’s Sunday teleconference: it was me who asked the question, because I was curious how he’d approach it.
When it comes time for bowl selection, would he prefer a BCS bowl against an elite opponent (read: Alabama) or a separate bowl like the Chick-Fil-A Bowl with a better chance at victory? Or does he not look at it that way?
Swinney, on the other side of the phone line, probably had the best answer his players could hope for.
“We absolutely want to be in the BCS. That’s a no-brainer. That’s not even a question,” Swinney said. “We’re still one of the best teams in the country. That’s a fact. We’ve been one of the most consistent teams in the country. I wish we could win them all, but there’s only a couple undefeated teams.”
It’s not a perfect science, but generally, it’s easier to win bowls in December than January. The way bowl projections are shaking out, Clemson vs. Alabama in the Orange Bowl is quite reasonable, which would make the Tigers a heavy underdog. Quite different than, say, Clemson vs. Texas A&M in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, where Tajh Boyd would be expected to beat Johnny Football.
“We want the very best postseason we can get,” Swinney said, emphatically. “Listen, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl’s great, I’ve had no problem with that. I think we should be in the BCS. We were in the top 10 for 14 weeks this year, which is a school record. We’re just outside of the top 10 now. Our losses have been to two really good teams. I think we’re a team that’s exciting to watch, and a team that can play with anybody in the country.
“We’d love to be in the BCS, and we think we deserve to be.”
Fiscally, Clemson University would love to make a BCS bowl, which pays out each invited school $17 million. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl – the ACC’s highest non-BCS bowl partnership – pays $2.9 million to the ACC member.
2) This stat won’t sit well with Swinney, Boyd or Chad Morris, but they’re just facts.
Florida State and South Carolina are top-20 total defenses nationally. Against those two teams, Clemson went 0-2, averaging 339 yards and 15.5 points.
Clemson’s other ten games were against squads outside the top 20, topped by No. 23 Georgia Tech and, among FBS squads, trailed by No. 86 Boston College. In those ten wins, Clemson averaged 535.7 yards and 45.1 points.
A 200-yard and 30-point differential. Sometimes, it’s just this simple: Clemson was extraordinary against teams it should throttle and ordinary against teams it shouldn’t.
3) Speaking of Morris, Swinney was asked about the possibility of his name being once again floated for head-coaching jobs elsewhere.
“Those are things that as things arise with your staff, you’re always communicating. But had no communication about anything like that,” Swinney said. “If we’ve got guys on our staff that have opportunities, during the season we don’t really address that stuff. But when seasons are over and coaching jobs come open, the biggest thing is everybody being on the same page. The main thing is no surprises, and go through the proper protocol.”
Asked flatly if any other school had requested permission to speak with Morris, Swinney said, “No.”
As of Sunday night, the day after the end of most regular seasons, Wyoming’s Dave Christensen was the only FBS head coach who had been fired at the end of his season.
4) Swinney’s opening statement Saturday was seven minutes long, lamenting the hangover of another brutal defeat to a rival.
“We’ve got two painful losses this year, and we can’t ignore that,” Swinney said. “But we can’t make it feel like we’re a bunch of failures either. It’s hard to win. When we step back and take a breath, we’ve got to celebrate the success we’ve had, and not dwell on or magnify the couple failures that we had.”
Swinney has repeatedly said Clemson fans won’t be happy until an undefeated season is in their grasp.
“We’re building a great program here, one season at the time,” Swinney said. “I know we’re going to get over the hump, we’re going to get to the top. We’ve just got to keep grinding, keep learning, keep growing, keep believing, keep doing it the right way.”
5) Swinney was extremely pleased with the offensive line’s effort.
“Offensive line, we probably played our best game. Very physical,” Swinney said. “I thought (LT) Brandon Thomas did a tremendous job. (RG Tyler) Shatley and (RT Isaiah) Battle performed very well. Hot Rod, man, great to see us be able to run the football the way we did.”
Roderick McDowell ran 14 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, the Tigers’ first 100-yard rusher in Swinney’s six games against USC as head coach.
6) This was just the fourth Clemson-USC game in the past 37 years that it was tied after 3 quarters. The Tigers won in 1993 and 2005, while the Gamecocks prevailed in 2006 and 2013.
7) No more interviews this week for coaches or players. The coaches are recruiting, the players are studying and finishing up coursework. We’ll next meet with the Tigers after they discover their bowl destination Sunday.