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Clemson vs. Ga. Southern

Dexter Lawrence (90) and Clelin Ferrell (99) bring down Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts (4) Saturday afternoon in Death Valley.

CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers finished off the regular season with an undefeated 13-0 record following their 42-10 victory in the ACC Championship, and their reward is a nearly a month of no games before they take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Dec. 29 (4 p.m., ESPN).

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The fact that they have nearly a month to rest, recover and prepare for one opponent is a welcome thought to some of the players — especially defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence.

“We have a whole month to prepare for one team,” Lawrence said. “We get our bodies better — we have like a week and a half off. Prepare the way we need to prepare. We can take care of the rest of school and go out there and get after it.”

But it is not only the players who are thankful for a break following the ACC title game. The coaches are looking forward to a rest also.

CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Journey to 13 special for Swinney

“Us coaches need the break. Are you kidding me? They all need to heal up, mentally and physically,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “All of it. This will be a great week for them (the players). These guys need to get healthy and rested. They’ve worked their tails off.”

Thankful for returnees

CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Clemson to face Irish

It was a little more than a year ago that the Tigers picked up three of their biggest recruits in the history of the program when defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant all announced they would be returning to school for another season.

For Venables, the reason for the Tigers’ success has to do, in large part, with the fact that those three chose to return to Clemson for another year of football.

Swinney always dreamed big

“Well, I just love them. I appreciate them, respect them and I’m thankful for them,” Venables said. “You feel good that they came back and sometimes guys do that and don’t have the same kind of reward and you’re hopeful that they don’t feel unfulfilled. It’s been a fun year. It’s gone so fast and they’re a big reason for that.”

Powerhouse takes time

Tigers win fourth straight ACC title, now await playoff location

While those on the outside looking in at Clemson football may see the last four years as an overnight success story, for those who have been a part of the journey, it has been anything but that.

“No. 1, it hasn’t happened overnight. It’s taken time,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “This has been 10 years since coach Swinney has taken over and I was there whenever he took over and I remember he said, ‘I want us to build a good program, not a great team.’”

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