CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This time last year, Dabo Swinney was home watching Pittsburgh beat Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game.

It was a strange feeling for Swinney and his Clemson Football team.

Playing in the ACC Championship became a right of passage at Clemson. The Tigers have played in the ACC Championship Game eight times, while winning seven of them. But last year, they missed playing for the title for the first time in seven years.

“When I got this job, we went to the championship game my very first year in ’09,’ It was in Tampa for whatever reason that one time. It was like a one-off. We got beat. I just remember what a big deal it was to get there,” Swinney said.

Clemson went back in 2011 and won it, and then won it every year from 2015-’20.

“You just put your head down and go to work, and you see what happens,” Swinney said. “We’re just very blessed to have had the opportunity.”

The ninth-ranked Tigers (10-2, 8-0 ACC) will have that opportunity again when they take on No. 23 North Carolina today in the 18th Annual ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

“Our guys did a lot of good things to earn their way here,” Swinney said. “We certainly were watching it last year, the ol’ Kenny Pickett fake slide. I was home watching it like everybody else and certainly missed the opportunity to be in the game.”

The Tigers will play a UNC team (9-3, 6-2 ACC) that is playing in its first ACC Championship Game since 2015, which also happened to be against Clemson.

“It really is special, this time of year when you’re playing and there’s a trophy being handed out,” Swinney said. “We’re excited, again, to be here and be a part of a great venue and represent this league. We want to congratulate Coach (Mack) Brown and his staff and all their team. Same thing; they’re a division champion. They earned their way here. It’s special. These opportunities are unique, to get these opportunities, especially when you look back historically.”

Clemson and North Carolina will kickoff at 8 p.m. The game will be televised by ABC.

photo courtesy of ACC Communications