After Clemson failed to cover the massive 46.5-point spread in Saturday's game against Syracuse, settling for only a 26-point win, it became clear that head coach Dabo Swinney's approach to football games is not necessarily popular with some in the national media.
National sportswriter Brett McMurphy dropped the Tigers in his AP Poll, while ESPN dropped the Tigers two spots in their FPI rankings.
While the Tigers maintained their lead on Alabama in the Coaches Poll, Clemson got 52 first-place votes, and Alabama had eight, the same numbers as a week ago, according to Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, the Tide are the new No. 1 team.
Swinney values playing the game the right way in an age of beating opponents by 50 or 60 points to gain the approval of the voters and media. And is not changing who he is for anyone.
“I could care less about any of that stuff,” Swinney said last season. “Like I have said many times, I just want to win. If our biggest problem is, we are not winning by enough, then hey, you know what, I guess that is a good problem to have. But whether you win by 50 or you win by one, it is a win. They don’t count any different, zero!”
The Tigers managed to win their 26th consecutive home game to extend its school record for the longest home winning streak in school history, improved to 18-2 all-time when ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press (Clemson has never lost a regular season game as the nation's top-ranked team), won its 27th consecutive game against an ACC opponent, including postseason play. The 27-game winning streak against conference opponents pulls Clemson within one game of the 2012-15 Florida State Seminoles (28) for the second-longest streak in ACC history.
Clemson has now won 35 consecutive regular season games, the longest such streak in ACC annals, tying the 2008-10 Boise State Broncos (35) for the longest such streak in ESPN Stats & Info data back to 2005. Clemson won its 38th consecutive non-bowl game, passing the 1992-96 Nebraska Cornhuskers for sole possession of the third-longest streak in the AP Poll era. Clemson’s 38 consecutive wins in non-bowl games includes 35 regular season games and three conference championship games.
Clemson pushed its winning streak in Saturday games to 49 to extend the longest Saturday winning streak in FBS history, while they have scored at least 40 points for a fifth-straight game, the second-longest streak in school history behind a six-game streak last season.
As absurd as it may seem, the eye test still matters to the pollsters and, even after all of the accomplishments and record-breaking performances, the Tigers have not passed that test — even though they have passed the only one that matters each and every week for the last five — winning.
“Like I said the other day. If I make a birdie and I hit a tree and it rolled up there (on the green) and somebody else made a birdie and they played it perfect, they both go down as threes,” Swinney said. “I don’t get into that stuff and could care less about any of the media nonsense, as far as we don’t win by (a certain amount). That does not bother me at all."
Swinney added that the Tigers have had multiple opportunities to pad their stats and the scoreboard over their 35-1 run, but he will never bow down to the wishes of the media because that's not what his Tigers are about.
“We can score a hundred points sometimes, but that is not what we are about," Swinney said. "We want to win the game and we want to dominate the opponent, but we are not out there to please the media and win by a certain amount or any of that stuff. We just want to win and get into the conference championship.”
However, the national media need-not-worry, the Tigers understand that they did not play up to their standard.
"I think we won the game. I think we won it," Swinney said Saturday. "You don't usually score 47 points if you don't have the right energy. It's not energy when you don't make a certain play or snap the ball over the head. You just didn't execute. At the end of the day, it's not easy to win. There are teams out there that would have lost this game with the amount of mistakes we made. But we won the game by almost four touchdowns."
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