The last time Clemson lost a season opener was in 2014.
It was to the same program, the Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers struggled offensively that night in Athens, Ga., kind of like last Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. A new quarterback was figuring things out, although Deshaun Watson wasn't the starter yet.
Still, Clemson headed into Week 2, just like this Saturday against S.C. State, searching for its first victory. The Tigers went on to beat those same FCS Bulldogs the following week. After that, Clemson lost to Florida State the next week, but it reeled off nine wins in the final 10 games, including a victory over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Dabo Swinney's squad didn't sniff a shot at the College Football Playoff in the first year of the postseason system, but Tigers also produced the nation's No. 1 defense in 2014. That season laid the groundwork for a run to the CFP that's lasted since 2015 and included two national championships.
Despite losses to Georgia, Florida State and Georgia Tech, it's a good example of Dabo Swinney's squad sticking with it all season. It's why Swinney never preaches CFP or bust. Its' not on the wall of goals in the team room.
But it's important to remember that came before all the success: the six consecutive ACC titles and CFP berths, the Watson and Trevor Lawrence eras and the plethora of blue-chip talent flowing through the program.
Clemson has established itself as a true national power in every way, but the Tigers lost a big game Saturday. It happens. Nobody wins all of them, and they'll get a chance at more, but will it come this season?
That's not a question looking for an answer about the CFP, how it plays out at the end of the season and if the Tigers can get in with one loss. It's more about making sure there aren't anymore.
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There's no room for error. Another defeat likely ends any hope of a trip to the CFP. To keep that from happening, Swinney's culture will be put to the test in a way it hasn't been in years.
It's not like Clemson's never lost a regular-season game. Pitt knocked off the Tigers in 2016. Syracuse shocked Clemson in 2017. Notre Dame won the regular-season matchup last year. But those came later in the year and served as wake-up calls that worked for Clemson.
This year, it's a long way to December. Sure, Clemson will be heavily favored over every team in front of them and should dominate a schedule with no ranked teams all the way to the ACC title game, but this is college football. Focus, dedication and trust are paramount.
That's how Swinney got this program to this point in the first place. He instilled the "windshield mentality." WIn or lose, it's never about looking back, only forward. That way, through failure and success, his team treats the next game the same.
It's become cliche around Tiger Town, but it works. Now it has to work longer. Can Clemson avoid another letdown? Can a team with tons of talent but obvious inexperience at quarterback, running back, offensive line and receiver get it together? Will the Tigers avoid the injury bug in 2021?
There's a lot that goes into running the table. Clemson will very likely run into matchup issues against somebody on their schedule. Is there enough improvement to overcome the weaknesses Georgia exposed? There's a standard to play to each and every week. None of these are secrets, and coaches and players have been preaching it all week.
"I'm happy at how they've responded," Swinney said. "This is a special group. They really care and they're really talented. I really believe this is one of the best groups we've had around here."
It's one thing to talk it. It's another to live it. Clemson can't change the outcome and the lackluster offensive performance against Georgia, but it can utilize all of Swinney's messages and mindsets moving forward.
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