CLEMSON -- The Clemson football team returned to campus at 2:30 a.m. Sunday to find about 1,000 fans, mostly students, waiting at Memorial Stadium to greet the Tigers, a team still perfect after Saturday's 23-3 win at Virginia Tech.
The crowd is a testament to the growing belief in the Tigers (5-0, 2-0 ACC). Clemson moved up to No. 8 in both The Associated Press and coaches Top 25 polls, speaking to the growing confidence in Clemson at a national level.
The Tigers set an ACC record Saturday by defeating three ranked opponents in succession. There will not be a chance to extend the streak as the Tigers host struggling Boston College (1-4, 0-2 ACC) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Clemson cracked the Top 10 of the AP poll for the first time 2008, when Clemson was ranked No. 9 in the preseason and opened the season with a 34-10 loss to Alabama. Clemson has not been ranked in the top 10 in October or later since being ranked 10th in Oct. 26, 2006, when Clemson lost at Virginia Tech.
"Ask me (about rankings) in December," coach Dabo Swinney said. "Hopefully we're a team that gets better each week and hopefully at the end of the season we'll be in the hunt."
There's reason to believe Clemson can still be ranked in the top 10 in December. Clemson will likely be favored in the majority of its remaining games, and Swinney said there is room for improvement as his team is yet to have a complete effort.
"We have not really put all three phases together where we've been a dominant team," Swinney said. "We've been winning two out of three phases."
Against Auburn and Florida State, dominant offensive efforts spearheaded victories. On Saturday it was the Clemson defense limiting Virginia Tech to 258 yards and without a touchdown at home for the first time since 1995.
"We're still a work in progress," Swinney said. "I feel like the secondary is really growing up. We've only given up one touchdown in the second half this year, and that just shows we are getting better as we go."
Swinney said it will not be difficult to refocus his team on Boston College. Swinney knows the crowd offering goodwill that congregated early Sunday morning can quickly disperse. "All we are is 5-0," he said. "We go lay an egg this week, people will forget about that real quick."
Swinney said the shoulder injury to kickoff specialist Spencer Benton "does not look good." Benton was injured trying to make a tackle Saturday. Swinney said cornerback Bashaud Breeland (concussion) is improving, and he said Jonathan Meeks (lower-body injury) is fine.