Swinney: Huge challenge this week. Obviously. Very excited about the opportunity that we have. This is a great football team we are getting ready to play. Possibly the best team in the country. Top three offense. Top three defense. Explosive players at every position. They have a Heisman Trophy candidate - and he's playing as well as any quarterback in the country. And top it off, it's a division game.
I know it's a big game for everybody. For us, it's the biggest game of the year. Just like last week. And come Monday Maryland will be the biggest game of the year. If not, y'all let me know. That's just our mentality. We have to have a great week of preparation. It's going to be a great matchup.
Offensively, they are very explosive and very balanced. They play a lot of guys. The offensive line is easily the best, most athletic we've played. Very well coached.
Quarterback is special. I know he's listed as a redshirt freshman, but he looks like a full grown man to me. Very accurate. Very poised. So far he's passed every single test. He can make plays with his legs or his arm.
Their tight end is great. Their receivers are explosive. They all do a great job of getting open. Their running backs? They will all play on Sunday. Flip a coin. They are always fresh. We have to do a better job stopping the run. That was a big factor last year.
Defensively- they are well coached. I've known Jeremy Pruitt for a long time. We played at Alabama. They are fast and athletic. Just like what you think when you think about Florida State defenses.
Their secondary will be the best we've played. They don't trick you. You have to line up and make plays. Big challenge for our receivers and a big challenge for our quarterbacks. Tight windows will be all he has to throw into.
The line of scrimmage will be important. Their linebackers are athletic. I don't see any weaknesses. Special teams they are dangerous. Very dangerous. Last year they had the big kick return on us and we couldn't get momentum back. We have to do a better job in the kicking game.
At the end of the day, this is what it's all about. We've got a pretty good team too.
But this is why you are in college football. Games like this. People need to know if you come to Clemson - first of all you are going to play in front of a packed house. Whether it's here at home or on the road - people come to see you play.
Secondly, you are going to get everybody's best shot - and that's how it should be.
Third, you are going to get on the biggest stage possible. That's what we want.
You are playing at home, you are No. 3 in the nation.
Swinney: I can't answer that. I have no idea. I guess whoever thinks of that stuff thinks that Florida State is better than us.
Is that a motivator in that role?
Swinney: I don't think that really matters. 2003 we were a pretty big underdog too. We weren't very good and they were No. 3 in the country. I guess we were fired up. At the end of the day it comes down to executing on the field. This game is a toss up if you ask me. It comes down to a few plays. Like the Georgia game. In this case, we are talking about trying to win the division. This is the next goal for us... but as far as it being a factor for us being an underdog or whatever, that has nothing to do with it. We know they are a great team.
Does it help you that you've already played a game like this considering you started the season with Georgia?
Swinney: I think your experience is always a factor for you. We've been in this type of setting. They have a visual and they know what to expect. But environment won't win the game. Players making plays is what we'll win the game.
With Jameis Winston, do they do things differently than what they did with E.J. Manuel?
Swinney: Not really. They've done what they've always done. A lot of screens. They want to run the heck out of it. A lot of drop backs. They have quarterback runs built into what they do. A little bit of option. not a lot different. They just are good at what they do.
|"This game is a toss up if you ask me. It comes down to a few plays. Like the Georgia game."|
Swinney: It's tough. You do a great job with coverage and you feel like you are in good shape and next thing you know you find a rush lane and scrambles for 15 yards. Same thing with Tajh Boyd. He makes you look better as a coach. He's one of them 'oh no, oh yes!' guys. That's called recruiting. You see it with No. 10 all the time.
Do you have any conversation with Tajh this week that he doesn't try to out-stat Winston?
Swinney: No. You just have to do what you have to do to win the game. He's a veteran guy. It wasn't about him and Aaron Murray. He's not about that. All the individual stuff comes from all team's success. He's not worried about that stuff. He's trying to execute.
You've talked in the past about your confidence, even in 2010 you thought you would win down there. HOw do you get your players to buy in?
Swinney: It's just your culture. Paying the price. When you pay the price for something you should be confident. There's a difference between confidence and arrogance. It starts with an attitude of belief. You have to learn how to think the right way. It's reflected in consistency. We've been ranked 37 weeks in a row. We've won our 14th game in a row versus an unranked opponent by double digits. This has been a very consistent football team for quite a while. You know, you people want to bring up well you lost a bowl game two years ago. Well we sure did. We got our butt's whipped. Since then we've lost two games. These guys don't hope to win. They expect to win. If you don't truly believe in what you are doing- you aren't going to be successful. At least not consistently. Prepare with purpose. Give great effort and apply technique. And when you have great commitment you have a chance to be consistent. And you have to have good players. We've recruited really good players and we have to develop those players. That's where it starts.
So you would be surprised if your team came out and wasn't well prepared?
Swinney: Yeah. Why wouldn't we not be prepared? We might lose the ball game but it might be because they are pretty good. Ain't nobody going to skin us and eat us alive. A few might like to. In a game like this the margin of error for us is little. Same for them. We may not always play great. Sometimes you guys don't write a great article everyday. We all have a bad day here and there. When you are in this type of matchup - you don't have a lot of room for mistakes. Last year we had critical mistakes that cost us. We don't get any re-dos. I think our guys have understanding how critical each play is.
Don't most games like this come down to defense?
Swinney: Yeah. Yeah. Most of the time. We weren't very good last year. I had to turn it off. It wasn't pretty. They kind of had their way with us. They had almost 670 yards against us. Most of it in the second half. It was a tale of two halves. But there is no doubt the name of the game is points but these are two stingy defenses. I think we've got a better chance. Maybe we can cut them down to 500 yards - who knows?
Knowing you will face adversity Saturday
Swinney: It's not just last week. This team has won a bunch of games. A bunch of games. We only had 10 seniors last year. And only 10 this year. Those 42 freshmen we had in 2011 have a lot of experience. Experience factor is huge. Any great team I've ever been on you have to win some tough ones along the way. Look at last week in college football. I know some people think we are supposed to roll out there and everybody else will roll over. It doesn't work that way. I knew Boston College was going to be a dog fight. Sure, we helped them a little bit with some uncharacteristic mistakes but everybody gets tested. It wasn't just last week it's been many times. You make mistakes and move on and keep playing. Hopefully the overall experience we have will help us.
How big of a factor can the crowd be Saturday versus Winston?
Swinney: Well, it's a tough place to play for anybody. You have to have great focus and poise and he certainly has demonstrated that big time. I mean, they got down 17-3 on the road at Boston College. Then bam, he makes a big play and he responds. He plays baseball and baseball is probably as bad as any sport out there as far as having thick skin. We need our crowd to be at an all-time high. The best that it's been. That creates the energy our team needs.
How specifically does the crowd impact the game?
Swinney: Two things - the energy that it brings your team. Your team feels that. It's a game of energy and emotion. And then the pressing. Trying to make a play to quiet them down. Communication. That's really hard. Especially if you are trying to go with an audible.
Sammy is playing better again- how important is it for him to have a big game?
Swinney: No doubt. The Tajh Boyd's, the Sammy Watkins', the Bryant's and the Humphries' those cats have to make plays. When we had C.J. Spiller here, everybody knew that if he didn't make plays we didn't win. Your playmakers have to make plays. When the Heat showup if LeBron doesn't make plays the Heat aren't going to win.
How important is the matchup Saturday for the ACC?
Swinney: Well this is what they've been wanting, isn't it? We've got three top 10 teams. They can't talk bad about us now? This is what the conference has wanted. We've had good football and very competitive football. Good parity. But we haven't produced that dominant team to go and compete on the national scene. That's what it takes. And listen, the loser of this game is likely going to still be in the top 10. Anything can happen. From a national standpoint, if we win the game Florida State isn't going anywhere. If we lose it doesn't mean we are a bad team. That's what we need if we are going to be the type of conference you are.
What do you make of the job Jimbo Fisher has done in Tallahassee?
Swinney: He's done a great job. Tremendous job. We've swapped the division back and forth the last couple of years. They've had their ups and downs too just like we have. They've recruited guys like Jameis Winston and the skill guys they have. They believe in what they do. They don't vary from it.
FSU lost multiple guys to the draft, and they are still at this point where they are now. Do you think Clemson is to that point?
Swinney: We've lost guys to the draft every year. Even our free agents. I think seven of our undrafted free agents are sticking around. We have slowly and methodically built this program. Five years ago right now I was getting ready to coach my first game against Georgia Tech. Trying to build that attitude of belief. Starting that process, and that journey. We were a good team in 2009, but we weren't a good program. We are a good program now. This program is setup to have a lot of success. A couple of years ago when we won the league everybody said well that's nice and I said well we have to do that multiple years. We have to get back and we have to build a consistent winner. We are setup to sustain success here because of the culture we have here that I believe in all my heart we have. When Tajh Boyd leaves we'll have another great player. When a coach leaves we'll have another great coach. Nuk Hopkins left. Mike Williams is going to be pretty good. He's better as a freshman as Nuk was as a freshman. I really like where we are and what we have in place. You have to continue to get better. There is no finish line. You have to constantly check yourself and check others and do a great job of recruiting with the right kind of discipline.
How is Spencer Shuey's toe?
Swinney: It's good. Getting better.
Can you speak to the passion of your fans with students camping out weeks in advance for tickets this weekend?
Swinney: Love it. Just the best place in the world. The people here are tremendous. We were sold out against S.C. State. I watch a lot of film of good schools with good games and there isn't anybody there. Not here. You show up on game day and it means something and you got people lined up and they are excited about seeing you there... that's what makes college football special to me. Nobody does it like Clemson. Nobody. The rock. The Hill. The emotion. It's awesome. I tell our guys all the time, don't take it for granted because you never know when it's your last time to do it.