Clemson University

Clemson continues rare dominance over SEC

What Tony Elliott said after Clemson win over Texas A&M

Clemson football co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott speaks Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, after the Tigers' win over Texas A&M.
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Clemson football co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott speaks Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, after the Tigers' win over Texas A&M.

Fueled by four consecutive years of Clemson vs. Alabama in the College Football Playoff or national championship game, a bit of a rivalry has developed between the ACC and SEC.

There was an offseason-long storyline of Alabama’s “mental fatigue” after the Tigers knocked off the Crimson Tide 44-16 in the national title game to even their four-year series at 2-2.

Both have 24-hour networks that like to point out their respective conference’s strengths, and maybe take shots at the other league when the opportunity presents itself.

But reality and narrative don’t always match up.

It’s hard to argue that the ACC is truly a tough out week-to-week, but No. 1 Clemson certainly is.

With the Tigers’ 24-10 victory over No. 12 Texas A&M at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Clemson improved to 11-2 against SEC competition since 2014.

“We take every game serious no matter who we play,” Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon said. “Every game is like a championship game to us. We don’t take any team for granted.”

Head coach Dabo Swinney, who has won two of the last three national championships, is 17-9 in his career vs. the conference he used to play in when he was at Alabama.

No other non-SEC coach since 2008 has recorded more wins against SEC teams.

So does it mean more when Clemson gets a win like Saturday’s?

“Yeah, kind of, sort of because everybody thinks the SEC is big and bad, but we’re going to show that we can play with y’all,” Clemson receiver Justyn Ross said. “I don’t feel like we have a rivalry, but we can play with any SEC team.”

The rest of the ACC still has some catching up to do. The SEC has won over 60 percent of its showdowns with the ACC all-time.

Both leagues have taken some lumps already in the early going this season, but Clemson continued its dominance over the SEC on Saturday with a stingy defense that held the Aggies out of the end zone until the final seconds of the game.

The Clemson secondary redeemed itself after a questionable showing a year ago in College Station, Texas.

Trevor Lawrence had a solid game with 268 passing yards, two total touchdowns and one interception. Receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross made circus catches to help out their QB, and the Clemson running game did just enough to keep the chains moving.

It was the kind of win over an SEC team that good SEC teams produce.

“For us, that’s just the way we operate,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “We believe in everything that we do. That gives us the physical toughness and the mental toughness and the discipline to be able to find a way to win.”

Maybe that’s the secret. The Tigers aren’t striving to win that league, even though they’ve proven they know how to play against it.

“Obviously there’s a lot of rhetoric,” Elliott said. “We don’t get involved in that because every game is important. We’re going to enjoy this one tonight but when we wake up in the morning, we’re focused on Syracuse.”

There’s no goal written in the team room that says, “Beat the SEC,” but when the Tigers face South Carolina late November, they’ll have a chance to continue rare dominance.