Dwelling on a dream could result in a nightmare for Clemson heading to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but senior Xavier Brewer conceded that disappointment lingered awhile following the loss to South Carolina.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much where all our sights were set on — we wanted to go to the Sugar Bowl,” Brewer said Tuesday. “We wanted to take care of business against South Carolina, but we weren’t able to do that so we’ve just got to suck it up.
“Now it’s time to get prepared for a great LSU team.”
Clemson-LSU on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta presents an intriguing matchup, a pair of 10-win conference championship contenders. Clemson, ranked No. 14 by the BCS, had one of the nation’s most prolific offenses this season. No. 8 LSU built its reputation on defense.
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“This game has a BCS feel to it,” All-America center Dalton Freeman said. “I think it will probably be the biggest non-BCS bowl game.”
Freeman, one of five finalists for the Rimington Trophy to the nation’s top center, said the game provides another opportunity for Clemson to step into the conversation of an elite program.
“They’re a national contender each and every year, so for us to kind of go out and prove to everybody we are who we say we are, these are the games we need to win,” he said.
Obviously, it doesn’t go unnoticed that this is another occasion for the stepchild ACC to measure itself against the SEC. Clemson opened the season by beating Auburn and closed with a loss to South Carolina. Next season begins with Georgia and ends with South Carolina.
“The SEC is the premier conference in the country, not just in the South. They’ve proven that because they win the games that they need to win,” Brewer said. “So, it’s pretty much just another opportunity for us to prove that we’re in that elite level and we can play with guys like that.
“We recruit the type of talent to play with them, so we’ve just got to go out and prove it. There’s nothing to talk about. We’ve just got to go out and play.”
Tight end Brandon Ford agreed that dwelling on anything but the task ahead would be counterproductive.
“You have to take advantage of every opportunity because the margin for error is thin when you get down late in the season,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to learn from that
“We’re fortunate to have another game. We’ve just got to get ready for LSU.”
With more than five weeks between games, maintaining focus through final exams and the holiday can be a challenge. The first of 10 practices at Clemson was scheduled for Saturday. After a Christmas break, the team was scheduled to reassemble in Atlanta and practice three additional days starting Dec. 27.
Seniors have been known to undermine the team and interrupt a dream by beginning to look beyond the bowl game. Freeman knows it.
“We don’t have any of the whiners and complainers we used to have,” he said. “That was contagious.”
“After taking last week off, we started working out and running again yesterday, and it was a great energy. I was proud of the way the guys came back to work,” he said. “Once we can get through this grind, I think everyone’s going to be fired up.”