Swinney spells succcess

CLEMSON - Across the street from me, a house is rising.

Ever since I moved into this neighborhood going-on eight years ago, the lot has been barren, consumed by weeds, rocks, wild grasses and the occasional parked, ownerless car that gets towed away. It has been a bit of an eyesore and a constant source of anger for my neighbor, who must deal with the brush and weeds that inevitably invade his pristine back yard. About a month ago, that changed. A crew showed up, cleared the land and laid a concrete foundation.

Now, a home – what I'm sure will be a perfectly nice home – is rising from the foundation. The site is a hub of activity. I came home the other day to find a large crane on the site, hoisting a frame into place. Workers hammer on the frame with a blam, blam, blam!

Some days they're working. Some days, it just sits there. But progress is made.

It reminds me, in some ways, of how a college football program is built.

An empty – or underdeveloped – lot sits around for a while until someone comes along with the money or vision to make it something more, develop it and class up the neighborhood while making some money.

In a sense, that's exactly what Dabo Swinney has done with Clemson's program.

We're about two weeks away from Swinney's fifth anniversary as the Tigers' full-time head coach, and it is remarkable what he has done. Following a decade marked by consistent mediocrity under Tommy Bowden, Swinney has excelled.

A win Saturday over The Citadel – and Clemson is a 40-point favorite – would run his record to 50-22.

It would mark Clemson's third consecutive 10-win season, a feat that hasn't been pulled off since 1987-90, the end of the Danny Ford era.

With two wins in the final three games, Clemson would have its first back-to-back 11-win seasons in its history.

Yet, it seems there are some fans who still aren't satisfied. Look on message boards, and there is talk of firing Swinney if Clemson can't beat South Carolina next week.

You're not serious, right?

The same fans who type this must not realize that Clemson hadn't won an ACC title since 1991 before Swinney arrived. Or that Clemson couldn't even get over the hump to win an Atlantic Division title before he took the reins full-time in 2009.

In five full seasons under Swinney, Clemson has won an ACC title. Won or shared pieces of three Atlantic Division titles. And become the first non-SEC team to beat top-10 SEC teams in consecutive games, ever.

Clemson has become nationally relevant. The Tigers have been ranked in the national top 25 for 42 consecutive polls, one of only seven schools who can say that nationally (Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Stanford are the others).

It has been ranked in the top 10 for 13 consecutive polls, the longest streak in program history.

It has been ranked in the BCS top 20 for 21 consecutive polls, the longest streak in program history – only Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Stanford can currently make this claim.

And Clemson has won 17 consecutive games by double digits over unranked opponents, a claim that currently only Alabama can make nationally.

Not bad, eh?

Yes, the four consecutive losses to South Carolina is a point of contention for Clemson fans, and it should be, given Clemson's historical dominance in the series. It doesn't sit well with fans, and it shouldn't.

But it is important to note that this is a golden age for Palmetto State football: South Carolina is perhaps at its highest level ever under Steve Spurrier.

And back-to-back losses to Florida State – including the 51-14 whipping the Seminoles laid on Clemson last month – are less than optimal, although I'd argue that FSU's domination of its entire schedule and likely run to the BCS national title game makes that game look less distasteful.

Houses don't rise in a day. You have rain. You have days where, perhaps, someone puts a hammer through the wrong piece of wood or drops a giant pane of glass.

But in the end, you have a finished product that someone will be quite happy to build a life in – and add property value to the surrounding neighborhood.

Clemson football's house isn't finished – either metaphorically or physically – but it's in pretty good shape.

Do you want to kick the current owner out and find a new one? I don't think so.

Given how that lot looked five years ago, anyone who doesn't want Swinney to keep building should have their head checked.

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