Quick turnaround

There's no question that Clemson has come crashing down to earth, with losses in three of its last four games.

The latest insult came Saturday in a 34-13 loss at arch-rival South Carolina.

"Right now we are not playing and executing the way I know we are capable of," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

The silver lining in the defeat? There's no time to dwell on the loss as the Tigers are bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game on Dec. 3, when they'll meet Coastal Division champion Virginia Tech in Charlotte, N.C.

"We've got to turn the page quickly," Swinney said. "Big picture-wise, we're a 9-3 team and it's an honor to be in this game, and that's what we've got to focus on."

Clemson plays for the ACC title and an Orange Bowl berth against a red-hot Virginia Tech team, which is 11-1 and hasn't lost since suffering a 23-3 defeat at the hands of the Tigers on Oct. 1 in Blacksburg, Va.

"They've really improved, really gotten better," Swinney said of the Hokies. "Their quarterback (Logan Thomas) is playing at a high level."

Clemson certainly isn't. The Tigers, who were 8-0 and ranked No. 5 in the BCS standings one month ago, are now simply struggling to find any sort of consistency.

The Tigers turned in perhaps their best overall performance of the season in beating the Hokies on Oct. 1, but haven't been able to match that effort since. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has struggled, the offensive line has been unimpressive and the defense is once again surrendering big plays.

"We've got a few guys who aren't playing quite as well as they were earlier in the season," Swinney said.

Swinney is hoping his team can recapture the early-season magic and perhaps channel the team that showed up at Virginia Tech two months ago.

"We didn't finish the season the way we wanted to, but we did finish with the second-best record in this league," Swinney said. "We've got to get our team's confidence back and get back to playing winning football. It's irrelevant what we've done, good or bad. It's all about this game Saturday night and trying to find a way to win it."

MONDAY NOTES: Clemson was held to just 153 yards of total offense in its 34-13 loss to South Carolina on Saturday. That was a season-low total, as were the Tigers' total first downs (12), completions (11) and passing yards (83).

--Clemson lost to South Carolina for a third consecutive season. That's the first time that has happened since the Gamecocks won three in a row from 1968-70.

--Clemson's defeat was its first in a night game in Columbia since 1987. The Tigers had beaten the Gamecocks five straight times in night games in the state capital.

--Clemson slipped to No. 21 in both major polls, but remained ranked for an 11th consecutive week -- the longest such streak for the program since 2001.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Tajh Boyd -- As Boyd goes, so goes Clemson. So it's really no surprise that Boyd's recent struggles have resulted in the Tigers losing three of their last four games. Boyd's confidence appears shaken, and he's been playing more like the first-year starter he is, rather than the seasoned veteran he appeared to be in the Tigers' 8-0 start. Boyd was intercepted just three times in Clemson's first eight games; in the last four he's been picked off seven times.

"I'm not naive enough to think you're going to have a first-year quarterback and it's all going to go perfect for him," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We've got to get him refocused on the things he can do well and the things he's done well and just let him go play. He's obviously very capable."

Of course, it also helps for a quarterback to have decent blocking too. And Boyd hasn't had much of that lately.

LOOKING GOOD: After enduring a flurry of turnovers in recent games -- the Tigers committed 11 turnovers in three games prior to their game at South Carolina on Saturday -- Clemson appeared to have resolved its ball-control issues against the Gamecocks. Clemson didn't fumble, and the lone turnover came late in the game when Tajh Boyd was intercepted.

"We did better, but we lost the turnover margin again," coach Dabo Swinney said.

Still, the one miscue represented a considerable improvement for a team that had lost five fumbles and been picked off six times in the previous three games.

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