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SPORTS LIBRARY, Clemson, football (copy)

CLEMSON -- Admiral Yamamoto said after Pearl Harbor that a sleeping giant had been awakened and filled with a terrible resolve.

Many around the country believe that when the College Football Playoff Committee put the Clemson Tigers fifth in their first rankings that it may have had a similar effect. But while head coach Dabo Swinney likes that saying, he does not believe it accurately reflects his team's motivation.

"Well, I like that," Swinney said. "We've been totally motivated all year. We really didn't need a playoff ranking of fifth to be motivated. This team has been locked in all year, has done a wonderful job."

For other teams, being the defending national champions and having gone through their second season undefeated may cause some stress or feelings of being slighted. But the Tigers, who are looking for their fifth straight appearance in the College Football Playoff, understand that it is a marathon and not a sprint.

"They have a lot of playoff experience, so they understand these in-season rankings really don't matter," Swinney said. "What matters is where it is in December. So teams that get distracted by that stuff from week to week usually get beat. What you got to do is just stay focused.

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"Having said that, I do think it certainly made our guys kind of raise their eye a little bit. Wow, we must not be very good, or a lot of people don't think we're very good. You go from one to fifth pretty quick."

The reality for the Tigers is this — if they win one more game, the ACC Championship, they are in the playoff. And it doesn't matter where they land in the top four because all they want is a shot to defend their title and prove everyone who doubted them wrong.

"At the end of the day, we're where we hoped to be, and that is in Charlotte with a chance to compete for our league championship," Swinney said. "If we can find a way to do that, win it, a chance to go back to the playoff.

"It doesn't really matter where we are -- one, two, three or four. We just hope to have the opportunity to get there. The next goal for us is the ACC Championship, and the next goal after that is to win the closer. We're just hopeful that it works out. We get the shot. We'll be excited to play anybody wherever they send us."

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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. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io

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