Clemson coach Dabo Swinney won’t say if his team deserves a spot in the College Football Playoff regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s ACC Championship game, but he feels strongly that the ACC should be represented in the final four.
“Absolutely. I mean, we’ve got three top-10 teams in this league. You know, the third-best team in this league just beat the SEC East champion,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question that the ACC should be wherever, in one of them games.”
If Swinney has his wish, the Tigers won’t be waiting to see if they are in the playoff come Sunday. He said his team has been playing playoff games all season, and doesn’t want to think about the possibility of losing to North Carolina.
“I don’t think about losing, so you’re asking the wrong guy that question,” he said. “I just think about winning. That’s all I’m focused on, is us trying to win the game. If it doesn’t go our way, ask me again.”
Clemson certainly has the resume to be in the discussion for a playoff spot, even with a loss to North Carolina. The top-ranked Tigers would still have wins over No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 9 Florida State.
“We’ve played 48 quarters, and now we’re down to four, and we’re going to have to play four great quarters,” Swinney said. “We don’t control what other people do and all that type of stuff. All we know is that we control our destiny right now, and let’s focus on just playing well, and we can live with whatever result we get.”
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora wasn’t shy with his feelings that the Tar Heels should jump from No. 10 into the top four with a victory over No. 1 Clemson.
“I most definitely do,” he said. “I think if we beat the No. 1 team in the nation, then I believe this team deserves to be in the College Football Playoff.”
UNC’s best win is a victory over then-No. 23 Pittsburgh. The Tar Heels haven’t beaten any teams currently ranked in the top 25, and a season-opening loss to 3-9 South Carolina in Charlotte is an ugly spot.
Still, Fedora said he has a different team now than the one that lost to USC.
“I would say the biggest thing is they have a lot of confidence,” Fedora said. “This team, we lost the first game, and so we were written off at that time. All they did was keep doing the things that we asked as a coaching staff.”
Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams, who threw three interceptions against South Carolina, has only thrown five picks the rest of the season. Fedora said his second-team All-ACC performer has been key to UNC’s success.
“If he doesn’t take care of the football, we’re not here today, I can assure you,” he said. “That is our No. 1 key to victory in every game we go into, is taking care of the football, and if you go back and look in the games that we didn’t turn it over at all, we’ve been pretty dominant.”