CLEMSON — Clemson enters November in an awkward position: the Tigers could win their most games in a season since the 1981 national championship season, and in doing so could also fail to secure their conference division as well as not be invited to play in a BCS bowl game.
No. 10 Clemson (7-1, 4-1 ACC) is a half-game behind Florida State in the Atlantic Division, but the Seminoles own the tiebreaker over Clemson and have a favorable remaining schedule. If the Seminoles win the ACC, they will likely head to the Orange Bowl.
While Clemson broke into the top 10 of the coaches (No. 9) and Associated Press polls (No. 10) Sunday, the Tigers lag behind in the BCS standings, where Clemson is ranked 13th, due to their lowly strength of schedule. It is schedule strength which heavily factors into computer rankings and voter opinion. Clemson’s schedule is ranked 89th strongest by Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings, and it could play a role in keeping Clemson out of a BCS at-large game.
But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says his team has to worry about what it can control in November, or else they risk being remembered for another November slide. Swinney said Clemson cannot worry about computer rankings and strength of schedule. The Tigers simply have to focus on preparing for a trip to Duke (6-3, 3-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).
Clemson is 7-8 in games played in November or later since 2009.
“We don’t control the ACC but we do control the type of season we have,” Swinney said. “If Florida State loses and we are not taking care of business, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of what happens with Florida State, at this point we have a chance to have a great year.”
For Swinney, there are plenty of benchmarks within Clemson’s reach.
Swinney noted Clemson hasn’t had consecutive double-digit win seasons since 1987-90.
The Tigers have not finished a season ranked in the top 10 since 1990, which could be an important springboard for 2013.
Swinney thinks the Tigers could still be in line for an at-large BCS bowl, though only one ACC team has received an at-large BCS berth (Virginia Tech last season). Clemson has never finished back-to-back seasons by playing in a major bowl game.
Clemson hasn’t won 11 games since it won 12 in 1981.
Still, Swinney knows big-picture thinking is dangerous for his team. Clemson entered last November also with one loss and was defeated in three of their final five games.
“They understand you have to stay committed to doing things the right way,” Swinney said of his players. “You can’t get all fat, happy and content.”
Clemson should have a strong finish considering the Tigers will be heavy favorites in their final three ACC games.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a strong finish,” Swinney said.
Swinney knows South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore through the recruiting process and said he saw Lattimore’s severe knee injury live on television Saturday.
“It just breaks my heart,” Swinney said. “This is a guy who represents all the good things college football is about. Just devastating because I know how hard he has worked. … I know it’s going to be a long process. … But if there is anyone I would bet on, it is Marcus Lattimore.”
Swinney said wide receiver Adam Humphries will continue to cross train at cornerback, where Clemson is thin. Humphries played some cornerback late at Wake Forest.
Swinney expects to have s tarting cornerback Bashaud Breeland (abdominal strain) back at practice this week.