Clemson coach Dabo Swinney insisted after Saturday’s win over No. 6 Notre Dame that all the victory means is that his team is now 4-0, but there is no denying that the Tigers took a major step toward reaching their ultimate goal of making the College Football Playoff with the 24-22 victory.
Clemson moved up from No. 12 to No. 6 in the AP top 25, and the Tigers should be favored in their next four games. Clemson does not play a ranked team until Florida State comes to town Nov. 7, and Clemson’s next four opponents all lost this past week.
“We’re just 4-0. We’re just doing what we do … It’s just October the 4th right now, and we’ve got a long way to go,” Swinney said. “It’s certainly a great win that I’m really excited for our fan base… They deserve this one. It’s good to be able to get on top and get it, but we’re just 4-0. It’s just kind of the next game for us.”
Now the next game for Clemson is Georgia Tech, a team that has historically given the Tigers fits, but the Yellow Jackets are coming off three straight losses, including a 48-43 home loss to North Carolina on Saturday.
Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson said the Tigers have to remain focused, but he also sees Saturday’s win over Notre Dame as a statement victory.
“A lot of people keep doubting us. We shouldn’t get no more doubters after this win,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay focused and get ready for Georgia Tech come Monday. We know Georgia Tech’s hungry. They’ve lost a couple of games in the ACC. Georgia Tech’s a good team, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”
Clemson players made it known that they felt disrespected entering Saturday’s showdown. Several national media members picked the Irish to win on the road in Death Valley, including Lee Corso of ESPN’s College GameDay.
Running back Wayne Gallman said Clemson was definitely aware of what was being said about the Tigers.
“All of the critics were saying that we couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that. We proved it, and we’ve got more to prove,” he said. “So we’re not done yet. We should have been recognized a long time ago and we’re going to just keep rising.”
A big reason for Clemson’s win was the play of its defense. The Tigers were outgained 437-296, but forced four turnovers — all in the second half. Clemson also snuffed out Notre Dame’s two-point try to put the game away late in the fourth quarter.
There are many new faces on Clemson’s defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation last year, but several members of this season’s unit contributed a year ago.
“We was ready for the stage because we were part of that team last year,” Lawson said. “A lot of players played a big role of that number one defense last year.”