CLEMSON, S.C. — When a reporter recently asked Dabo Swinney how his Clemson Football Program will go from an off year in 2021 to getting back to where the program was in 2018 and 2019, the Tigers’ head coach laughed.
“I don’t think we had an off year. I think we had a great year,” Swinney said recently at an IPTAY Prowl and Growl event.
In 2021, Clemson posted a 10-3 record, which included a six-game winning streak to close the season. The Tigers finished ranked 14th in the final Associated Press Top 25, the 11th straight year the program finished ranked inside the top 25. It was also the 10th straight season the program was ranked inside the top 15 at the end of the year.
“To win ten games in college football is not easy,” Swinney said. “All you have to do is look at how many teams do it.”
In fact, Clemson is one of three programs all time in FBS history to win at least 10 games for 11 consecutive seasons. Florida State did it 14 times from 1987-2000, while Alabama has produced 14 consecutive 10-win seasons since 2008.
Clemson is next with 11 straight 10-win seasons, a run that began in 2011.
Granted the 2021 season did not produce an ACC Championship for the Tigers. It was the first time since 2014, the Clemson program was not holding up the league’s championship trophy at the end of the season.
It also marked the first time in seven years the Tigers did not make the College Football Playoff.
But 2021 was not a total wash.
“I thought that team, as the season played out, they did their best,” Swinney said. “Certainly, we want to win the ACC. That is where it starts for us. We want to win our division. We want to win the league. We did win the state championship.”
Clemson also won a bowl game, the program’s eighth in the last 10 seasons.
“So, I would not say it was on off year. Maybe it was not a championship year, but I am proud of that team,” Swinney said. “But as far as getting back to the ACC Championship, you have to bring it every week. You have to make those critical plays in critical moments.
“You think about a few plays. Two in the NC State game, double overtime, on the road. A couple of plays in the Pitt game that could have turned that around a little bit. The next thing you know, you are back in Charlotte. We did not make those plays.”
Swinney also pointed out how people say what Clemson did not do in the three games it lost, and they are not giving credit for what Georgia, NC State and Pitt did to win those games.
Georgia of course won the 2021 National Championship, while Pitt won the ACC Championship. NC State won nine games and tied with Clemson for second place in the Atlantic Division.
“Pitt was a good football team,” Swinney said. “They had the first quarterback drafted and they won the league. They won it. Nobody gave it to them. NC State had a heck of a team. They made the critical plays.”
Can Clemson make enough critical plays in 2022 to bring the ACC Championship back to Clemson? We’re going to find out.