Tigers can't focus yet on big game

Tigers can't focus yet on big game

The Clemson football team has some business to take care of next week.

South Carolina has won four straight in the series with the Tigers – something that hadn't happened since a run from 1951 to 1954. In fact, before this current stretch, Clemson hadn't even lost two straight to South Carolina since I was born in 1970.

Yes, the Gamecocks snuck a win in there every few years, but for the most part, the Tigers dominated the series. That has not been the case the past four years as the Gamecocks have won each time in convincing fashion.

That's something Clemson's 2013 team needs to stop.

But that's next week.

First, the Tigers have a game to play – on senior day – and a 10th win of the season to earn. If the Tigers can do that Saturday – they certainly should be able to against an overmatched team from The Citadel – they will do something that hasn't been done at Clemson since 1990.

That Clemson team – Danny Ford's final team with the school – went 10-2 for the fourth straight year. The Tigers' program hasn't had three straight double-digit win seasons since, but that will end with a victory Saturday.

No matter what happens against the Gamecocks or I an upcoming bowl game, that's quite an accomplishment, and it's the kind of consistency Dabo Swinney is building – and any coach would want – with his program.

Those kinds of programs don't lose games like this weekend's. In fact, Clemson never has made a habit out of losing to The Citadel, winning 30 of the 36 matchups with one tie.

The two programs don't play much, but when they do, Clemson usually wins. They last played in 2008. Before that it was 2000. Before that it was 1986. And before that it was 1978. You get the point.

Clemson has won 15 straight in the series, dating back to a 6-0 loss in 1931. Yes, 1931.

So there's no real concern that the Tigers will lose this one, other than the fact that worrying is what coaches do, the good ones anyway. And the Tigers have a good one. So Swinney and his staff won't look ahead to next week, and they won't let their players, either.

They will stay focused and stay on point for this week's game and this week's game only. That's how teams get to be as good as Clemson's is right now.

That and recruiting talented players.

Swinney's staff has done plenty of that, as well. And that is highlighted by the members of the current senior class who will play their final game at Memorial Stadium. There are 10 seniors listed on this year's roster, and there are eight more players who are listed as graduate students. That adds up to 18 players who will make their final trip down The Hill (not including any who jump early to the NFL).

That's a group that has won a lot of games and done a lot of special things, including ending the program's long ACC drought. It's a group that will be remembered for a long time for helping turn around the program and give it some consistency and stability, two things that had been lacking for some time before Swinney took over.

Those players can continue to set the tone for this program with a win this week and another one … next week.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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