CLEMSON— The second-ranked Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) will be looking to clinch their fourth consecutive ACC Atlantic Division title Saturday when they travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to take on the No. 17/14 Boston College Eagles (7-2, 4-1 ACC).
Even though the Tigers play every game with the idea that the given week’s game is the biggest of the season, the fact is that this week is the biggest game to date.
Because a championship is on the line.
“We have the opportunity to lock up the division Saturday night and settle it on the field. It's championship week for us,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “You work all year to get to this point. Now you're four quarters away from achieving one of our main goals. I'm really proud of our team. We have a huge challenge.
"Boston College is a tough, hard-nosed, well-coached team that has had a heck of a year. Offensively, it starts up front for them. They're big, strong and physical. They know who they are and there is a lot of veteran leadership and experience. Their style is a little different in terms of how they go about things.”
That different style involves multiple tight ends being on the field at once, which is not uncommon for teams in the northeast. But that is where the similarities end.
The Eagles not only utilize a personnel grouping that the Tigers have yet to face, they do so while running an up-tempo offense.
“That's just who they are and it's what they believe in,” Swinney said. “Now they will get into empty and formation you. But they know what they're doing. They're very committed to who they are and they're very well-coordinated. Everything is intentional and purposeful. You have to be disciplined with your eyes and your keys.
“I think Steve Addazio relishes (the multiple tight ends). He's an offensive line guy and a great football coach. He's passionate. Think about BC, I think about toughness. I've gone against them a long time now. I've seen these guys a lot. I think about toughness, pride, discipline, physicality. They epitomize all of those things. Coach Addazio instills that into his players.”
Not only would a win Saturday over the Eagles clinch the division, it would be the 50th victory by the Tigers’ senior class -- which would tie school and ACC records for the most wins by a senior class.
And a victory would also give the Tigers their eighth consecutive 10-win season — tying Miami (1985-92) and Virginia Tech (2004-11) for the fourth-longest streak of 10-win seasons in FBS history.
“That would be our fourth in a row. I don't know that it's been done. That would be a great accomplishment for these seniors who have accomplished so much already,” Swinney said. “It’s important to them. It would mean we would have a chance to go to Charlotte and play for a fourth ACC title in a row. You can't win 12 until you win 10.
“Our guys take a lot of pride. It's not as much about the scoreboard as much as it is the pride in everyone and how they play. If you can get everyone committed to that, the scoreboard will take care of itself. We hold players to a high standard. If I have someone loafing, I will call them out on it. I want to make sure they understand what the standard is. There is a high level of accountability. There is an edge every week in moving on to the next game and learning from it.”
With the opportunity to check off the second goal of five they start every season with this week, the Tigers are not approaching this week any different than they have for the first nine games of the season.
"We just do what we always do. We don't prepare any different,” Swinney said. “It’s the same Monday practice that we had against Georgia Southern. We try to create consistency in our preparation. We don't do anything different as coaches. We just go about our business and put our plan together with a daily routine. Every week we try to make that game the biggest game of the year. We don't get too high. We don't get too low. Fans do, but we don't do that. We stay focused on the task at hand.
"Right now this is the biggest game of the year because we're playing it. This isn't any bigger than last week. Had we not won last week, we wouldn't be getting a trophy if we win this week. But we have to win."