CLEMSON—While the Tigers fanbase is looking forward to the possibility of winning six straight games against the Gamecocks, for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney there is a bigger prize in front of the Tigers—going 12-0 in the regular season.
"I think it's great to beat our rival. Yeah, okay, we beat them five times in a row--well, great. Nobody's going to care next year,” Swinney said. “You don't get to carry over any of the plays, you've got to go prove it every year. To me, that's a huge deal...I mean, you go to any school, how many 12-0 teams have there been at any program. There's probably just a handful. That's hard. That's really hard to do.”
To say that it has been hard to go undefeated in the regular season may be a massive understatement.
In fact, if the Tigers win this week it will be only the fourth time in school history they have accomplished that feat—joining the 1981, 2015 and 2018 teams. Swinney became the first Clemson coach in school history to have multiple 12-0 starts (2015), as Danny Ford accomplished the feat one during the 1981 season.
“Just look around college football there's what three, four undefeated teams, it's just hard to win week in and week out,” Swinney said. “I have such a great respect for this team and how we've played from a totality standpoint in these previous 11 games. They have just had this incredible will to win, they've had this incredible will to prepare week in and week out. That would be an unbelievable accomplishment, in this day and age to go 12-0.
“Look around college football and all the parity and anybody can beat anybody on any given week and to have that type of consistency. We've played more teams, it's not like we've played The Village Idiot University, we've played the most teams in the country that have seven or more wins...Maybe the next team in the country has played four or five. So, that's impressive.”
In 2013, after the Gamecocks won their fifth straight game over the Tigers, photos began to emerge of South Carolina fans, who had their picture taken with Swinney, holding up five fingers in the photo.
But Swinney is not about to start holding up six fingers if the Tigers beat the Gamecocks for a sixth straight season.
“You won't see me doing any of that stuff if we were to win,” Swinney said. “I'll just be happy that we won the game. I'm all about what's in front of us and what's after that.
“This is an exciting week. This is the season for us and then South Carolina. This is a goal of its own for us. It's important to everybody in this state. It's a lot of fun to be able to participate in rivalry games. It's something that's been woven into my life. It's always a special week…I would love more than anything to see them be able to finish and to be one of those 12-0 teams that's rare in college football.”