Tigers face daunting road test

Clemson has rebounded in a big way from its first losing season in 12 years, jumping out to a 4-0 start and No. 13 national ranking through the season's first four games.

The only concern is that the Tigers have yet to play outside the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium.

"You've got to be able to go out and win on the road, and we're starting at the top," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose team visits No. 10 Virginia Tech on Oct. 1. "I'm anxious to take this bunch on the road and see where we are."

To a man, Clemson's players insist that they won't be fazed by the atmosphere at Lane Stadium, but many other teams have thought the same before playing at the stadium where the Hokies are 119-31-1 under longtime coach Frank Beamer.

Swinney believes that Clemson's challenging schedule, which includes wins over Auburn and Florida State the past two weeks, has prepared his team for its first road trip. And a win over the Hokies would give Clemson three consecutive victories over Top 20 opponents -- a first in program history.

"I think our schedule has helped us," Swinney said. "Every week just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I just hope our players handle 4-0 like they did 1-0 and 2-0 and 3-0."

It's a mental game, Swinney contends.

"If your performance is determined by where you play, then mentally you're not where you need to be," he said. "You can't allow those external things to affect performance, you can't allow it to cause you to stumble out there. You've got to focus on the process and executing.

"When Michael Jordan walked into a gym, it didn't matter where that gym was. If you have the right mentality, you can be energized by an opposing crowd. They can talk about your uniform and your mama, but that doesn't decide anything."

WEDNESDAY NOTES: Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins is tied for the national lead with six touchdown receptions this season. He also is averaging 7.0 catches per game, which ranks him second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and first in the nation among freshmen.

* Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd has thrown for 1,255 yards in just four games, the most passing yards by a Clemson quarterback in any four-game stretch in school history. He ranks 10th nationally in total offense (330.5 ypg.) and 12th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 170.52.

* Clemson, which already has snapped Auburn's 17-game winning streak this season, has a chance to end another streak on Oct. 1 at Virginia Tech. The Hokies have won 12 consecutive ACC games over the past two seasons and have won 15 straight regular-season games.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads Virginia Tech, 17-12-1 (last meeting 2007, Virginia Tech won 41-23 at Clemson)

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