Maybe Clemson Does Play Somebody After All

There is no denying that Clemson has become one of the more dominant football programs in college football over the past five years. However, even going back a decade the Tigers have won at a clip against ranked teams out of conference most others have not.

In fact, only three teams have a higher winning percentage against out of conference ranked teams than Clemson does over the last ten years.

Yes, we can hear it already…. Clemson doesn’t play many ranked teams playing in the ACC. While that may be true some seasons, dig a little deeper and we see that very few programs, if any in fact, schedule in a way to make up for that.

While it may be true that the Tigers aren’t playing as many ranked opponents inside the conference, they make up for it in their aggressiveness in how they schedule out of conference games.

Only Miami and Florida State have played more out of conference games against ranked opponents over the last five years, and for those two teams, most of those matchups have come from playing against each other.

The Tigers follow a pretty simple formula when it comes to scheduling.

  • Eight games against Atlantic Coast Conference colleagues.
  • The annual rivalry with UofSC.
  • One game against a school from the Division I bowl subdivision Group of Five conferences, such as Charlotte, Appalachian State or Coastal Carolina.
  • One game against an FCS team in South Carolina, such as Furman, Wofford or The Citadel.
  • And finally, another marquee matchup with what Dabo Swinney calls a “Sho’Nuff.”

Sho’Nuff is a reference to the villain from the 1985 film The Last Dragon, who was supposedly the baddest man on the planet. Swinney is referring to the yearly games with teams such as Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, etc.

In fact, the Tigers have that kind of game scheduled for every season covering most of the next two decades. Clemson will play Notre Dame and Georgia a minimum of three times over that span, and also have home and home series with Oklahoma and LSU on the books. Add in the annual rivalry game with the Gamecocks and you’ll be hard pressed to find any team scheduling more aggressively than Clemson.

Let’s face it, the ACC isn’t the SEC. We all get it. One conference is built with traditional football schools, while the other is full of more basketball schools than football ones.

Although, let’s also face the fact that the SEC isn’t what it once was back during the days of the BCS. The gap has narrowed, as the makeup of the SEC has become similar to most other Power-5 conferences. It generally has two to three really good teams at the top of the league, with the rest of the conference just hoping to get seven, eight or maybe nine wins.

Listen, the SEC is a great conference, but I don’t think they’ve been as deep the last few years. I think they’ve had two or three really good teams and then it’s kind of been hit or miss from there. It’s an awesome league, for sure, and I know people say that Alabama was tired because they went through the grind and had to play all these teams. Well, they won by an average of 33.1 points per game [going into the playoff], so they ought to be well-rested.

Dabo Swinney on the SEC and Alabama prior to 2019 season

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