Tigers at Familiar .500 Mark

ATLANTA – If nothing else, at least Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden is consistent. In each of the last five years, Bowden has gone into final stretch of his record at or near .500

After Clemson's 10-9 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday, the Tigers are 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the ACC. But maybe that shouldn't come as that big of a surprise.

After all, it's like this every year.

Last season after eight games, the Tigers were 4-4. At one point in 2003, Clemson had a 5-4 record. In 2002, once again they were 4-4 and in 2001, they were 5-5.

"They don't stop the season after eight games," Bowden said. "There's three left. A couple of years ago, we sat there at 5-4 after a loss to Wake Forest … and we finished up pretty strong.

In each of those previous years, the Tigers were eligible to go to a bowl game.

And had it not been for the brawl last year against South Carolina in the final game of the season, the Tigers would have in all likelihood gone to another bowl game, which means Bowden would have been to six bowls in six years.

Last season, Clemson went 2-1 down the stretch to finish 6-5. In 2003, the Tigers won last three games of the regular season to go 8-4 and earn a trip to the Peach Bowl.

A year earlier in 2002, Clemson won three of its last four to finish 7-5 and qualify for for the Tangerine Bowl. Then in 2001, the Tigers beat South Carolina in the final game to go 6-5 and make the Humanitarian Bowl.

And if the Tigers hope to make themselves bowl eligible seven straight years, they are going to have to win two of their last three this season.

Clemson's next two games are at home against Duke and highly ranked Florida State. And if it plays out as the point spread indicates, the Tigers' bowl hopes will fall squarely on their last game at rival South Carolina.

"It puts more pressure on you," said Clemson tight end Thomas Hunter. "But at the same time, you've got to take the philosophy of one game at a time. We can't sit here and think about we've got to win two games to get to a bowl game or Duke's going to kill us next week. We lost to Duke last year and they're going to have our absolute full attention.

"It's going to put a little more pressure on us, yeah, but we can't be thinking about who we got after Duke. It's all about Duke next week."

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