Clemson University

TCU bails out Tigers ... or does it?

CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney remembers Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips calling him into his office at about 5 p.m. on a Friday last February - as Swinney was "trying to go cook a hamburger or something."

"And I was like, 'Oh, that's not good,'" Swinney said.

By Saturday night, the Tigers will know whether the results of that meeting turned out better or worse for the football program.

Clemson had been looking for a 2009 home game because Central Michigan and the Mid-American Conference had reneged on a agreement, and now the expected fill-in, Idaho, had to back out because of scheduling issues as well.

Phillips and associate athletics director Kyle Young laid out the alternatives among FCS teams, but after the Tigers had to scramble to reach bowl eligibility last season because only one FCS game can be counted toward bowl eligibility - and Coastal Carolina is on this season's schedule - Swinney wanted to go the FBS route.

"Obviously I want to win every game, and every win counts, but with what happened last year, I just think adding another one of those games was not a positive," Swinney said. "For me, it's not very good because if you lose it, they fire you, and if they win it, nobody cares.

"My thing was, surely there was a Division I opponent out of 120 teams that could come to Clemson and play. They got this look on their face, and Terry Don grinned and said, 'Well, there is one. Only one.'"

It was TCU, which had finished the season ranked No. 7 and enters Saturday's game No. 15 in the AP poll.

The Tigers gave the Horned Frogs a $1 million guarantee for the game.

"I said, 'Well, let's play, let's do it," Swinney said. "It was really a quick conversation, then went and grilled my hamburger.

"Told (wife) Kath, 'Hey, we're playing TCU. Get ready.' It sounded a lot better in the spring than it does now, I promise you."

The contest with Central Michigan has been moved to 2014.

The Hairston hope. Junior left tackle Chris Hairston (sprained MCL) is listed as questionable on Clemson's final pregame injury report, and all signs point toward Hairston playing if medically cleared.

"He's still not game-ready, but every minute counts," Swinney said. "It will literally be pregame before we say yay or nay."

No one else is listed on the injury report, and Swinney said those who came down with the flu this week - mainly defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins and center Mason Cloy - should be fine.

"It seems to be really calmed down," Swinney said.

Playing with purpose. Senior running back C.J. Spiller, ranked second in the country in all-purpose yards per game (210), needs 18 yards to move into third place on the ACC's career list and 291 to surpass former North Carolina running back Leon Johnson (1993-96) as the leader.

Hall of fame. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele uncharacteristically has given high praise to redshirt freshman safety Rashard Hall for his preparation and knowledge of the system, and Hall believes that has allowed him to play without tentativeness.

In the opener against Middle Tennessee, Hall was given a situational start and tallied 13 tackles as Clemson combated a spread offensive with six defensive backs.

Hall then beat out senior Sadat Chambers last week for the start as the extra defensive back in Clemson's nickel defense and tied for the second-most tackles against Boston College with six.

Steele went so far as to call him "Professor Hall" in front of teammates last week.

"I just pretty much just don't want to make a mistake," Hall said. "Growing up, my mom said there was never a dumb question, so ask."

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