CLEMSON— For the first time since the final polls of the 2016 season, the Clemson Tigers (11-1, 7-1 ACC) are back on top of the college football world.
Following a week that saw former No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Miami both lose, the Tigers moved back to the coveted No. 1 spot in both The Associated Press poll and the Amway coaches’ poll Sunday.
While head coach Dabo Swinney has been a longtime believer that the rankings don’t matter before the end of the season, he broke from the norm and informed his team that the No. 1 team had lost before the game with South Carolina Saturday, because now it matters.
"They knew, because I told them. I told them. I think that's something that is awesome,” Swinney said. “These guys have worked really hard all year long to stay in the hunt, and this is the type of year when it matters, or the time of the year when it matters. Ya’ll ask me about the polls and I would never answer. I would tell you that they don't matter. Guess what? It matters now. Now it matters. We're almost to December and it matters. So I'm really proud of our guys for fighting, battling, scratching, believing and we wanted to be 12-0 -- didn't get it done. We'll try again next year, but 11-1, we've had a pretty good year."
The AP and coaches’ top five teams are: Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Auburn and Alabama.
Win and you are in
In the first three seasons of the playoff, the winner of the ACC Championship Game (Florida State, Clemson twice) has found the way into the playoff — with Clemson winning the national title last season.
When the Tigers take on the Miami Hurricanes Saturday (8 p.m., ABC), Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney does not see any reason that this year will be any different.
"I think where we are right now, I don't think there's any question," Swinney said. "I don't think there's any question that with the season we've had and the season Miami has had that the winner of this game will be in the playoff."
Venables a candidate at Arkansas
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ name has emerged as a candidate for the head coaching job at Arkansas.
Venables, whose defenses have ranked inside the top 10 nationally each of the last four seasons, has been the defensive coordinator at Clemson since January 2012 — when he took over for former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
When asked about the possibility of Venables’ name being linked to head coaching positions, Swinney said he and his staff are focused on the Tigers’ game with Miami.
"We are 100 percent focused on Miami. I don't know anything about that,” Swinney said. “There's a million rumors. Our focus and Brent's focus is on getting ready for Miami. I've always had a policy if guys have opportunities, that's great, but nobody's sitting around worried about any of that stuff. Everyone's focused on trying to beat Miami this week and that's it."
Venables’ oldest son is a current Clemson commitment and his youngest son recently picked up an offer from the Tigers. He is currently the second highest paid assistant coach in the nation ($1,431,250 annually).
GameDay for a third time
Clemson will be featured on ESPN’s College GameDay for the third time this season as the EMMY-award-winning show will originate from the Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship for the first time in the history of the championship game.
The game will feature the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (Atlantic Division Champion) and the Miami Hurricanes (Coastal Division Champion).
Including host appearances (five), this week will mark the 16th time that GameDay has been at a Clemson game.
Tigers are big favorites
The Tigers opened as a 6.5-point favorite over the Hurricanes when betting began Sunday. But within a matter of a few hours, the lines had jumped in favor of the Tigers — with multiple betting sites having the Tigers favored by as many as 9.5 points.
Hyatt wins Jacobs
Junior offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt was named the winner of the 2017 Jacobs Blocking Trophy by the ACC.
The award, given annually since 1953, goes to the player selected as the most outstanding blocker in the ACC by the league’s head coaches and defensive coordinators. Hyatt becomes the eighth player from Clemson to receive the honor and the first since John Phillips in 1987.