No. 2 Notre Dame (9-0) has already clinched a spot in the 2020 ACC Championship. Now, it's time for the Clemson Tigers to do their part Saturday and secure a shot at the program's sixth straight conference title.
The Tigers are heavy favorites for the visit to Lane Stadium but Clemson is definitely still looking to prove a point after the heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 7. Getting a rematch against the Irish as a healthier squad is without question on the minds of the players.
But first things first and make no mistake, it's time to load up the ROY bus(es) for a trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to battle the Hokies (4-5). Clemson (8-1) enters the must-win primetime kick in good health and looked impressive in a 31-point opening quarter in last weeks' win over Pittsburgh.
"It's been a good week so far and a good Wednesday practice. We really appreciate the good Lord for giving us some cold weather for a couple of days here so we can get outside and practice in the cold," Dabo Swinney said.
With projected weather calling for the low 30's and a 60 percent chance of rain, that preparation this week could prove to be very beneficial for the Tigers Saturday night.
"We've got a chance to punch our ticket to Charlotte, but you've got to go do it. You're only four quarters away from that and we're excited for the challenge," Swinney said.
This is hardly the first big game in Blacksburg that Swinney has been part of since he's been the head coach. He reflected on some of those memories Wednesday night in his media availability session following practice.
The Tigers silenced Lane Stadium in 2011 with a 23-3 victory en route to Swinney's first ACC title. They defeated the Hokies in Charlotte that year, 38-10. During the last trip in 2017, Clemson slipped past Virginia Tech, 31-17.
"It's a great environment. Obviously, It'll be a little different this time around but it is one of the great environments in college football. They do an awesome job there," Swinney said. "We've had some good moments, for sure, and a couple of bad ones as well. It's always a tough place to play and Virginia Tech is always a tough out."
In injury news, safety Lannden Zanders is still out but improving with the hope of a return for the postseason. Wideout Joseph Ngata is also on the mend but won't play Saturday night. Sophomore receiver Frank Ladson is still listed as day-to-day. The Tigers expect to have defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro back for the first time since his injury against Wake Forest in the season opener.
On the scheduling front, Clemson's head coach said the ACC's decision to not make up the Florida State game came as a surprise earlier this week. He added however that it is nice to have certainty that Saturday will indeed be the final game of the regular season.
"I really thought we would be playing next week," Swinney said. "We're headed into game 10, I wish we would have had 11. But I'm thankful we've had the opportunity to play 10. I'm proud of our guys and how they've competed all year."