CLEMSON — Wandering minds would be uncharacteristic as Clemson prepares for N.C. State this week, coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday, pointing out the incentives within his team’s reach.
The immediate incentives are the potential of clinching a share of the ACC Atlantic Division title for the third time in four seasons and avenging last season’s loss to the Wolfpack in Raleigh, a loss quarterback Tajh Boyd said was even uglier viewed in the rear view mirror.
Nationally ranked, once-beaten and favored by 17½ points, Clemson stands to protect its place on the national landscape. A year ago, the Tigers were ranked No. 7 when State took them down, 37-13. A second ACC championship might be out of reach, but the “consolation prize” could be an at-large invitation to a BCS Bowl — the Sugar Bowl the most likely — should Clemson win the final two games on the schedule.
Swinney admitted there’s no way to insulate players from those conversations. It is not one in which he engages them.
“We’ve got to finish better than we did last year to be able to achieve some of the things we want to achieve,” he said during his weekly news briefing. “None of it matters if we don’t take care of our business today.
“I like where we are right now, I like our demeanor. We’ve just got to stay focused like we have been.”
N.C. State (6-4) did one thing this season Clemson could not — beat Florida State — and in quarterback Mike Glennon and cornerback David Amerson has two large jewels for the NFL. The Wolfpack defense is third nationally in third-down conversion and tied for 10th nationally in sacks.
In two seasons as a starter, Glennon’s stock rocketed. At 6-foot-6, he has a Peyton Manning view of the field with a similar arm and the savvy to spread the ball around to more than a dozen sets of hands. Swinney compared him to former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.
“They want to put the ball in his hands. I don’t blame them,” he said. “Glennon is the playmaker and he is the distributor.”
“When we do bring pressure, we’ve got to win some of those coverage matchups because he is smart, and it’s not like you’re going to fool him a lot.”
At 6-foot-3, Amerson and Dontae Johnson are the tallest corners in the nation, presenting matchup problems for many teams. Amerson intercepted 13 passes a year ago. With opponents tending to shy away he has four this season. Swinney isn’t fooled by the numbers.
“Last year was a freak show,” he said of Amerson, “that was crazy by what he did.”
Glennon and Amerson are momentum thieves, players who can steal a game much like the Wolfpack did last year when Clemson committed four turnovers.
Maintaining the focus that’s pushed his team to No 11 in the BCS remains critical this week and next or its Peachtree Street instead of the French Quarter.
“We don’t talk about it,” Swinney said. “I’m sure that they get that kind of stuff.
“They’re not going to cancel the season at 9-1. All that stuff that people talk about, none of that matters ... if we don’t play well Saturday.”