Sapakoff: A beachy Clemson streak going into the Orange Bowl
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Dabo Swinney didn't go shirtless. He didn't even loosen his lavender, white, purple and orange necktie. But the Clemson head coach went straight to the South Florida beach volleyball card Thursday when asked for the 13,672nd time to explain the Tigers' 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
Instead of waiting two full years to return to the Sun Life Stadium for Friday night's Orange Bowl against No. 7 Ohio State, Swinney and everyone involved would have preferred a rematch the very next morning on any football field from Vero Beach to Big Pine Key.
"When you get whupped, it's like, 'Let's go again right now,'" Swinney said. "It's just like we were playing a little beach volleyball the other day on our (Orange Bowl) beach outing day. We lost the first game. 'Let's play again right now.' You want to get a different result."
But enough about 70-33, and Swinney's slow starts on sandy stretches of competitive ground along the Atlantic.
Consider that Clemson - with coordinators Chad Morris and Brent Venables intact - quietly has a nice (if little) streak going when given time to prepare.
A 26-19 victory over Auburn in the Georgia Dome in the 2012 season opener. That was Venables' first game as defensive coordinator after the dismissal of Kevin Steele following the unpleasantness in Miami.
A 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year.
A 38-35 "GameDay" home win over Georgia to start the 2013 season.
Ohio State, prior to its 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, was expected to grab a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
The Buckeyes are better than an underachieving Auburn team that cost Gene Chizik his job.
Urban Meyer's guys might be about as good as LSU.
They're not better than the healthy Georgia team that showed up at Death Valley and one week later beat South Carolina by 11 points in Athens.
Maybe the Clemson coaching staff knows what its doing with precious time away from those annoying college distractions like classwork.
"The biggest thing is that we control the schedule," Swinney said. "I think that one of the things you can make the mistake in is really over-preparing for an opponent, and it becomes boring, becomes stale, all that. So I think you have to have a good balance throughout your month of preparation, really working on yourself."
Clemson has the six-turnover horror show at South Carolina to shake. That's motivation, just as the fourth of five straight losses to the Gamecocks helped with the focus going into the LSU game.
Morris isn't locked in a laboratory with Chip Kelly books and Ron Jaworski motivational tapes. Like other offensive coordinators, he simply gets more time to study tape than during a regular-season week.
But Clemson does have a few customized tweaks.
"We try not to practice too long," Swinney said. "I think that sometimes you can make a mistake doing that."
The coaches incorporate preparation for spring practice, and get most of the bowl game plan in before Christmas.
"We don't come down here trying to figure it out," Swinney said. "We know what we're going to do. We're committed to our plan. When we get to the bowl site, we just polish, and we really focus on the details and trying to get as many guys dialed in to the plan as possible."
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff