BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney and the Clemson marketing department behind the “All In” slogan would be proud.
A sampling of fans who support the program financially clearly crave bragging rights over another conference championship.
An online newsletter poll distributed to IPTAY donors begged the question: What is Clemson’s biggest football game this fall?
The three options were obvious: the season opener at Clemson against Georgia in a potential top 10 Saturday night showdown broadcast to the nation; the Florida State matchup, which has determined the ACC Atlantic Division champ four straight years; and the regular-season finale at South Carolina, a heated in-state rivalry with the Gamecocks enjoying a four-game winning streak.
The middle game, Florida State, could portend a perfect league slate, positioning the Tigers for perhaps the program’s first 8-0 ACC run. Yet national title dreams hinge on at least knocking off the Bulldogs or Gamecocks.
Based on the poll, receiving 301 votes over the weekend, fans are going big or going home.
A total of 144 voters, or 47.8 percent, tab the Georgia opener the biggest game of the year, while 119 people (39.5 percent) took South Carolina.
“I think it’s great for Clemson-Georgia and the fan bases,” Swinney told The ACC Network in a video interview released June 14. “When it got put back on the schedule, it immediately caught everybody’s attention and people have been talking about it for several years now.”
Only 12.6 percent (38 voters) believed Florida State was the key to Clemson’s 2013 success.
“The FSU-Clemson rivalry has changed, with the change in coaches,” said Heather Byrd, president of the Charleston County Clemson Club and vice IPTAY chair. “We don’t have Tommy Bowden and Bobby Bowden anymore – that changed the dynamic a little bit for me, as a Clemson fan.”
Clemson’s official count of 14 ACC championships leads the league, though the Tigers’ 2011 crown is its only such addition to the trophy case since 1991. The program has one national championship, in 1981.
“I think for us, the ACC Championship isn’t the goal. I think a BCS game is our goal,” said Byrd, agreeing with the majority as picking Georgia the biggest game. “We’re bigger than just conference champion. Our sights are set bigger than just ACC; we’re at a point in time where we can be at the national level, and we’ve shown that over recent years. I think we’re ready for that.”
Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State combined for a 35-6 record in 2012 — including three bowl game victories — and each finished the season ranked in the Associated Press top 10. Clemson, which beat LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, checked out at No. 11.