Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's message this week is simple--look in the windshield, keep the pedal down and don't mention the past.
With the Tigers heading to Raleigh on Saturday to face the Wolfpack of N.C. State (5-2, 1-2 ACC) on homecoming the Tigers will not hear their coach mention the year 2011 or the game that took place at Carter-Finely Stadium,the site of the Tiger's (ranked 7th at the time) last loss against an un-ranked team, because all of that talk is "irrelevant".
"None of these guys were here," Swinney said Tuesday. "I think (Charone) Peake was here, but he might have been hurt by that time. It's really irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the game, this team. If we go up there and get beat, it will be because they beat us. They were better than us...This is all about this game on Saturday. We are just focused on trying to play our best game."
N.C. State coach Dave Doeron is in his third year as the head coach of the Wolfpack and Swinney acknowledged that Coach Doeron has done a great job and will have his team focused and ready to give the Tigers their best shot this coming Saturday at 3:30 pm.
"Coach Doeron has done a great job in recruiting and getting his systems in place. It's easy to see, from my perspective, the improvement in their team. The belief in what they are doing. Because the are a well coached team in all phases. He's got'em playing hard, got'em playing tough, got'em playing confident and a big part of that is they have got 18 starters back and they're sitting here at 6-2, playing at home with a sell-out crowd and top-ranked team coming in there. So this is a great opportunity for NC State and we know we will get the very best they got."
The Wolfpack enter this weeks game against Clemson as one of the more balanced offensive attacks in the league, averaging 200.1 yards passing and 212.3 yards rushing the ball. For the Tigers to have success, Swinney understands job number one is stopping the quarterback--Jacoby Brissett. The Wolfpack quarterback who, through 7 games, ranks 17th in the nation in completion percentage and has only thrown one interception this season.
"Offensively, they're all over the place as far as what they do: formations, shifts, motions, alignments, personnel groupings. They're kind of a BC (Boston College) type...but they have a better passing game," Swinney said. "Their quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a really good player...(He) is big and strong and doing a good job of taking care of the ball."
"They do involve him in the running game. He's been very efficient. You can't one-arm this guy. He's probably 240-plus pounds. He's big and has made some really good throws."
The Tigers have won 10 out of their last 11 against the Wolfpack, including a 41-0 shutout last season in Clemson. However, with so much on the line for these Tigers in the last five games and the media now seated firmly on the Tigers bandwagon Swinney says his Tigers goal is to end the season at 12-0 and in order to do that you have to get to 8-0 this week.
"We want to be 12-0, but you can't win 12 until you win eight. Our goal each and every week is you don't have to win them all, let's just win the one we're playing," Swinney said. "Let's be better than the team we're playing. That's been our approach and focus."
"I think that the leadership on this team deserves a lot of credit because they carry the message...You look at our team and say ok you got 39-40 freshman. Those guys are just showing up like, 'wow, this is just the way it's supposed to be.' Happy-go-lucky. This is easy. That's a danger if you don't have the right kind of leadership in place. These seniors, juniors they haven't had much failure but they've had enough. Pain is a great motivating thing. They have had enough painful moments to where they have an understanding of critical a play is. How small our margin for error is when you are trying to be the best."
The journey for Swinney and his Tigers to be the best continues this Saturday against a hungry Wolfpack team that will be looking ruin the Tigers special season for a second time in four years.
"They are a bloody-your-nose kind of team. That's what they do...For us it's having a great week of preparation and really getting dialed in. This is a game of the trenches and a game of precise execution because this is a team that will take advantage of you if you're not where you're supposed to be."