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CLEMSON — The great thing for the No. 4 Clemson Tigers is that they have made it to through the first half of their season unscathed — a perfect 6-0.

The bad news for their remaining opponents is their best football remains ahead of them, at least that is what head coach Dabo Swinney thinks.

“Our best football isn’t behind us, that’s for sure,” Swinney said. “We’ve been a work in progress this first half. I think we are on the right track. I think we are getting better, but we’re a long way from playing our best game.We’ve got too many things that we’ve got to do better, details to clean up – technique, footwork, football awareness — just a lot of things.

“But the guys are playing hard. They want to be coached. So, the good news is we’re 6-0, and the better news is we haven’t come close to playing our best game. Not even close.”

While Swinney believes that the 2018 team has a ways to go before reaching its potential as a team, the Tigers are well on their way to being the best team that Swinney has had in the recent run of success.

Offensively, the Tigers are averaging 42.2 points per game and gaining 531 yards of offense — while averaging 280.33 yards rushing. If the season ended today, those numbers would be the highest totals in the Swinney era.

Defensively, the Tigers are allowing only 14.3 points per game, 261.2 total yards per game, 108.33 yards on the ground and 152.8 yards passing. By comparison, in 2014, when the Tigers had arguably their most dominant defense in school history, all of the 2018 stats are better except their rushing yards allowed by only 4.95 yards per game (103.98).

While the Tigers may not have been as impressive in their victories as some of the fan base may have liked, if those numbers hold to form, the Tigers will be doing just fine the remainder of the season because Swinney understands the goal is not to peak too early.

“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, and we’re not a finished product or anything like that,” Swinney said. “So, hopefully we’re a team that continues to get better. You want to be good enough to win in the beginning. They all matter. You want to get off to a good start, but not many teams play their best football early.

“So we’re just continuing to try to handle our business and hopefully in the end we’ll be a good team.”

The continuing to get better continued for the Tigers on during their bye week, as the team practiced Monday-Thursday before taking Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.

But the work they did during their only bye week of the season will be that much more important because their next opponent also had a bye week to get better.

“So, just huge week coming up,” Swinney said. “(We are going) to get a good week of work done on Clemson and also on N.C. State. They have an open date as well, so how we manage that time is critical. But again, we’re proud of our guys, proud of where we are, and if we can continue to improve in some critical areas, I think that we have a chance to be a really good team. But right now all we can do is be 6-0, and that’s what we are, and excited about an undefeated matchup here two weeks from now in the Valley.

“So, I just like where we are. I like the mindset that our team has. There’s a lot of urgency within our coaching staff to try to improve on a lot of these details because that’s what we’re going to have to have. We’ve got to be coachable and relentless to improve.”

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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.


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