There’s a joke around Clemson that if the Tigers keep beating teams as badly as they have so far this year, they’ll be out of the top 10 by December.
The defending national champions started the season as the No. 1 team in the country. All they’ve done since then is win seven straight games, outscore their opponents, 280-84, and beat five teams by at least 30 points.
They haven’t lost since the 2017 national championship game. But for all that dominance, they’ve gone from the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll to the fourth-ranked team.
Coach coach Dabo Swinney met the latest rankings with sarcasm Sunday in his weekly teleconference before he prepared his team to play Boston College this week.
“I’m not surprised at all,” he said. “We are winning by an average of 28 points and last year at this time we were winning by 28.7 points. That 0.7 is elusive. It’s probably the greatest 0.7 there is.”
Laughs aside, Swinney said falling in the poll doesn’t affect how the Tigers go about their season.
“I don’t really worry about that stuff,” he said. “We just try to take care of business week in and week out, work our tails off to get better. We’ve got a lot to improve.
“Everybody can have whatever opinions they want, it doesn’t matter. What matters is us trying to close out October in a strong way and get ready to try to win this division and win this league, and whatever’s after that, hopefully, we’ll be positioned well.”
The voters may not respect the champs, but BC Steve Addazio knows better.
“Come on now, they’ve been there before,” Addazio said. “These guys, they’ve won championships — national championships, conference championships. This program knows how to ride through the emotional ups and downs of everything.
“What is it now, 22 straight [wins]? I mean, that’s really hard. Everybody has bad days now. That’s really hard. You’re everybody’s big game. You’re taking everybody’s best shot. That speaks volumes to what Dabo Swinney and his staff have done down there to me.”
Bouncing back from back-to-back losses was difficult enough for the Eagles. Their 45-24 win over North Carolina State last week reset their season as they brace for their biggest challenge of the year Saturday in Death Valley. BC knows Clemson’s dominance first-hand. The Eagles have lost eight straight to Clemson.
To Addazio, there’s no debate.
“There’s no doubt in any mind that they’re the No. 1 team in the country — skilled, talented everywhere, proven it on the field,” he said. “So when I watch their tape, I see no weaknesses. I see great athletes and a great coaching staff.
“I think their offensive coordinator, their defensive coordinator, those guys are elite guys, and you can tell by, when you watch the tape, how well-coached each side of the ball is. The challenges will be high, but we’re looking forward to it.”
For a sense of just how much of a load Clemson is: BC has played the Tigers tough in two losses the past two seasons. The combined score of those games? 61-14. The Tigers aren’t a team motivated by slights.
“I know what Dabo is like,” Addazio said. “I’m sure down there it’s about Boston College right now. Just like for us right now, it’s about Clemson. All that stuff, if you ride those roller coasters, I don’t think that’s very positive.
“So if you’re riding it, it could be as much of a positive as a negative. I think, if you’re getting caught up in that stuff, say, ‘Well, hey, it’s us against the world and we’re getting disrespected, I guess that can work.’ But sometimes that can cause you to lose your focus a little bit too.”
The last time the Eagles won at Clemson was 2007. It’s been three years since they gave the Tigers a scare in a 17-13 loss at Alumni Stadium.
“We’ve been down there a few times and here and had some wars, and our guys are well aware,” Addazio said. “They’re smart guys. They know that this is an outstanding football team but also excited for the challenge. I expect that we’ll have a great week of preparation and go down there and play with great effort and finish.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.