CLEMSON — A compressed schedule this year, as opposed to prior years, has had the four teams in this year's College Football Playoff scrambling a little bit more than normal.
However, the No. 3 Clemson Tigers have something on their side that not a lot of teams can boast—experience. And with that condensed schedule and a coaching staff that is always wanting an extra five minutes, it could be the experience at the top that pays dividends.
"I think for Coach [Dabo] Swinney, it gives him just a great level of understanding of how to manage the schedule. Because as coaches, we want to go," offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. "You just had coach Venables up here, and he was ready to call the defense today. I'm ready to call the offense today. So we just want to go, go, go, go, go. But he understands how long these guys have been going. We've been going all season, and then they get four days off, and then it's right back to banging, and the next thing you know they're playing in two weeks.
"So I think that gives him the ability. He has an unbelievable sense of the team, the pulse of the team, but with the experience, he knows how to manage the schedules to make sure that we get the work that we need to get done, but at the same time too, we protect these players and make sure they get the proper rest."
The fact that the Tigers are going back to a place where they've been a couple of times before may have a few people breathing a sigh of relief, but the fact is that there are still more players on this year's team that have never been to Arizona than have.
"I think there's a lot of guys that haven't been too, so we're really going to have to lean on the veterans that have been there," Elliott said. "Trevor (Lawrence) hasn't played in this setting. So really have to do a good job of making sure that we lean on the older guys, but then we don't just rest on the fact that we've been there before.
"We've got to still appreciate the opportunity, appreciate the moment, and just continue to be who we are. And if we have that approach, that this is the biggest game of the season, like we always do, then I think our guys will do well."
If the Tigers make it out of Arizona with a win, it would mark their 29th straight win, the longest active winning streak in college football. The Tigers will also be going for their 43rd straight win on a Saturday.
If Clemson makes it to 30-0 this season, with a win in the national championship game, it would be that much closer to the greatest streak in college football history, 47-0 by Oklahoma (1953-57). But the Tigers are not thinking that far ahead; instead they are focusing on the one game in front of them—the Ohio State Buckeyes.
"Coach Swinney does a great job of putting everything into perspective. And you can only do 28 when you do one. So you've got to appreciate the one you're in," Elliott said. "For us, we're always focused on the journey, and not necessarily the destination. We have clear vision of where the destination is, but we're focusing on the journey.
"I'm not thinking about what we've been able to accomplish, because, again, the best is yet to come. So even though we may have had 28 in a row, the best is still yet to come. And another thing, too, that I've learned is those are just moments. Those are just moments, and they're great moments, and you work extremely hard for those moments in your life. But they're just moments. It's the journey that really counts."