CLEMSON, SC (AP) – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney doesn't need a College Football Playoff top four ranking to know that his fourth-ranked Tigers are playing well and have developed the leadership and chemistry needed to defend their national championship. .
Swinney said the team's talent and execution were on top of last year's winners by 15-0.
"The similarities of where we are now and where we were back then were playing our best football and the leadership and chemistry were very, very good," he said. "And that's exactly where this group is."
It's hard to argue about his point.
The Tigers have won 24 straight games with their attack operating at a level that is statistically better than a year ago. Clemson has had four games with 600 yards or more this season, the first time this has happened. And the average of 7.58 yards per game of the Tigers this fall is also the highest in school history.
Clemson's defense, which should be a concern after losing seven holders a year ago, is losing fewer points per game than last season when he led the country in that category.
"It's exciting as we enter the fourth quarter of the season," said Swinney.
Clemson (9-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) seems to keep pace when playing in the state of North Carolina (4-4, 1-3) on Saturday night.
No one should expect Swinney to pay close attention to the PCP ranking, which will be released for the first time this season on Tuesday night and will be released weekly until four playoff teams are scheduled on December 8.
"If we're two, three, four or 15, it's not worth the brain cells," said Swinney, who saw his team fall in the top 25 despite preseason's # 1 choice not losing a game.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence said the team never paid much attention to what outsiders think. He spent most of the season dealing with analysts in his game – from throwing movement to footwork to decision making. Although not everything is unjustified. Much of the scrutiny that reached the second to three meters high is because of its eight interceptions – double the total of the national championship season.
But Lawrence performed more like sensational freshmen last month, with 12 touchdown passes and three picks in the last four games. He had nine TDs and five interceptions in the first five games.
Current ACC player of the year Travis Etienne has also stepped up his game. He has played 640 yards and six touchdowns in the last four games – which Clemson won by a combined score of 208-45 – compared to 462 yards and five touchdowns in the first five games.
"It's really important that we play our best football in November and improve every week," said Lawrence. "It's something that makes us very proud."
Wolfpack played well against the Tigers, especially in Raleigh, North Carolina. They won at home in 2011 and were within one digit of Clemson in 2013 and 2017.
"This week, of course, the challenge is big when you play with a team that did what Clemson did," said North Carolina state coach Dave Doeren. "I could look at their statistics, but everyone knows where they are. They do a great job on both sides of the ball."
Swinney doesn't want his players to focus on rankings or positions, just what comes next. After the state of North Carolina, the Tigers play their last home game a week later against Wake Forest's surprising No. 22 in a game where, if the two teams win this week, they will put together a winner-take-all contest. for ACC Atlantic's place in the championship. championship game.
Clemson ends in rival South Carolina on November 30, before the start of the postseason. By then, Swinney is sure that the way of the Tigers will be clear for everyone to see.
"We just get stuck in what we can control," said Swinney.
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