Firmly but politely, Dabo Swinney said the media polls that overwhelming named Clemson the preseason favorite to win the ACC and quarterback Tajh Boyd to repeat as conference player of the year were “irrelevant.”
“It really is,” he said. “I took a preseason magazine with Tajh’s picture on it at a team meeting, and I threw it in the trash.
“It’s really irrelevant because it’s based on past performance, and it has nothing to do with the present day. I know its fun for people to make predictions,” he said. “Come November, that’s when it’s based on reality and based on present performance, (and) that’s when it means something to me.”
Of the 120 voters, 95 chose Clemson to win a 15th ACC conference championship.
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Defending champ Florida State was named on 15 ballots. Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech split the other 10.
Clemson was the pick by 102 voters to win the Atlantic Division, followed by Florida State, which received the remaining first-place votes, then N.C. State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Syracuse and Boston College.
Miami was the pick in the Coastal Division by 65 voters, followed by Virginia Tech (27), North Carolina (22), Georgia Tech (6), Pitt, Virginia and Duke.
“I appreciate people having high expectations for us, but I can assure you they’re not any higher than we have for ourselves,” Swinney said. “Our fan base expects us to win the league every year, so it’s really no different for us.
“If we’re going to get where we need to be, we have to consistently win and put good seasons together. So that when people sit down and try to decide who their top 10 is, top 15, Clemson’s always there.”
This was the seventh occasion that Clemson was the media favorite. The Tigers won in 1978, 1987, 1988 and 1991.
“Maybe we’ve made a little progress, but we’re not there yet,” Swinney said. “We need to go out and have another great year. We’ve got a good team coming back, and I think you’ve got the ACC player of the year returning, third-year starter at quarterback. So that’s easy to see, but it’s so much more than that.”
Boyd, a fifth-year senior from Hampton Roads, Va., broke the single-season ACC records for touchdown passes (36) and touchdown responsibility (46).
Entering the 2013 season, he has an opportunity to set more records, starting from 8,053 career passing yards and 73 touchdown passes.
Swinney said he was humbled to realize that in entering his fifth full season, he is fifth longest tenured head coach in the league behind Frank Beamer, Jim Grobe, Paul Johnson and David Cutcliffe. “It’s a scary, humbling thing, because it’s a volatile business.”
Even if he’s able to sustain success and become one of those programs that’s always on the minds of pollsters, Swinney said he doesn’t believe he’ll ever feel as if Clemson has “arrived.”
“I don’t think that I’ll ever be satisfied,” he said. “I think to be the best, you have to constantly be on edge for what’s next. You have to constantly reinvent, reinvest so that you don’t plateau, so that you don’t decline, that you consistently keep trying to be better.
“As soon as you click your heels and think we’ve arrive, you start declining real quick, because somebody’s passing you by.”