SPORTS LIBRARY, Clemson, football

CLEMSON — “Best is the standard.”

That phrase can be seen inside the Clemson Tigers’ indoor facility, the new football complex and the coaches’ offices. But while it may be simple for some, for head coach Dabo Swinney the phrase has a much deeper meaning.

"Sometimes people may take that the wrong way. You don't see win national championships up there. That's not our goal. Our goal is to be the best we can be,” Swinney said. “We want to be our best. Whatever God gave you, be the best you can possibly be. That applies in every area whether it's the best coach you can be, the best player, whatever.

“If you're a walk-on, commit to be the best you can be. You probably won't be a starter, but be the best you can be with what God gave you and you can live with whatever the results are. When you're trying to be THE best, that's comparing yourself to other people. We want to be the best Clemson can be. It's effort, preparation, work ethic, attitude - -all the things that you can control and relevant to you being your best. It's sleep, nutrition, what you do when no one is watching."

Tigers must play better

Last year, the Tigers narrowly escaped the game with N.C. State — needing overtime to knock off the Wolfpack in Death Valley.

The Tigers could have avoided a close game if they had taken better care of the ball. Clemson turned the ball over to the Wolfpack five times in last season’s game — three of which came inside the Wolfpack 5-yard line.

But if the Tigers hope to escape a trip to Raleigh this year with a victory, Swinney knows his Tigers cannot afford to have the same mistakes as last year.

“It was a great game, and I mean, we were fortunate to win,” Swinney said. “They created some turnovers. I mean, we had three trips inside the 5 that we got zero points. We had another trip inside the 20, we got zero points, and we threw a pick six. I remember a lot of bad. But we still won the game, which ultimately is all that matters. So it was a very tough game, one, again, we were fortunate to win. A lot of mistakes in the game, a physical game. We're going to have to play a lot better if we're going to have a chance to win this year.

Championships in the trenches

Last season, the Wolfpack featured an offensive line that, according to Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, was the “toughest” that the Tigers faced all season — including the Alabama Crimson Tide, who Clemson faced in the national championship game.

This year, the Wolfpack may be even better along the offensive line and sport a defensive line that is mentioned among the best in the nation.

Clemson also laying claim to one of the best offensive and defensive lines in college football, with two dominant lines facing one another, makes these types of games so exciting.

“That’s kind of what championship football is all about,” Swinney said. “For the most part, our side (of the division) is pretty much down to us and N.C. State. You know, when you’re in the mix for some type of championship, you’re usually pretty good in the trenches, and that’s the case for both teams. The strength of our team is our offensive and defensive line, and the strength of their team is their offensive line and defensive line.

“Should be a heck of a challenge (for our defensive line), and the same thing for our offensive line going against their defensive line. Vets on vets, strength on strength, and you know, that’s usually what championship games come down to.”

Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.

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