CLEMSON — Rave reviews of the Clemson football team and several of its players after the first game were accepted with aplomb, but Dabo Swinney cautioned against taking their new neighborhood for granted.
“We’ve just played one game. That’s all,” Swinney said Tuesday after Clemson jumped from No. 8 to No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
“We’re just 1-0,” he said during his weekly media briefing. “I appreciate people recognizing potential because we do have good potential.
“We have a chance to be a real good football team. But it’s a long way to go.”
So impressed by Clemson’s 38-35 win against Georgia were two Ohio reporters that they voted the Tigers ahead of the home state Buckeyes. Clemson leaped Stanford, Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina in the media poll, all but Stanford — which did not play — in the coaches’ rankings.
Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and Cleveland.com ranked Clemson No. 1.
“The game was tight, but a win like that against an upper-level SEC team, even at home, goes a long way on a weekend of light competition,” he wrote.
Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch had the Tigers No. 2 on his ballot, behind Alabama and ahead of Ohio State.
It was the highest ranking for Clemson since a No. 3 on Sept. 17, 1988. Clemson followed with a loss to Florida State in the legendary puntrooskie game.
“It just doesn’t matter,” Swinney said cautioning against the rush to judgment with 11 games on the schedule including Saturday’s against S.C. State. “If we’re number four going into the ACC championship game, it’s great. Maybe that game gives us a chance to go to the final game. Then it matters.”
Nonetheless, the pats on the back have been nonstop since the Tigers took down a second consecutive nationally ranked SEC opponent.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd was named the leader in the Heisman Trophy race in a straw poll by HeismanPundit.com. Boyd, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for two, was named Atlantic Coast Conference offensive back of the week.
The ACC also named Sammy Watkins receiver of the week, center Ryan Norton offensive lineman of the week and linebacker Spencer Shuey linebacker of the week.
Maintaining perspective could be a season-long challenge for a team launched into rarified air, but Swinney and Boyd have similar gifts for managing the potential distractions.
“If they’re going to announce the Heisman this weekend, he’s got a shot,” Swinney said. “I’ve got to hurry up and get my tux for New York.
“It’s awesome, but it’s not a story,” he said. “He’s got to go and perform very well throughout this campaign.”
Boyd joked that he wouldn’t mind one of those life-sized posters created for C.J. Spiller and William Perry. “I made my own,” he said. “It’s in my room.”
Admitting it was “cool and exciting,” Boyd said he wasn’t taking it serious. “If it happens in November, December I’ll start writing a speech.”
Reality can be cruel, so the immediate challenge was raising the bar another notch this week against an S.C. State team listed by VegasInsider.com as a 52½ point underdog.
“I told the team yesterday, we are night and day, light years ahead after one ball game this year than we were after one ball game last year,” Swinney said. “It’s not even close.
“We’re just better,” he said. “Last year, we weren’t very good.
“Here’s the difference. That team last year was pretty good. They won 11 games, did some great things. Here’s the deal. That team got better and better and better all throughout the year.
“If this team will do that, we have a chance to have a special year.”