CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Earlier this week Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden told reporters his focus wasn't on becoming bowl eligible, it was simply on winning the next game.
Of course, a victory over North Carolina today in Chapel Hill would accomplish both objectives; the win would be Clemson's sixth of the season, which would qualify it for a postseason appearance.
But even the players seem to be focused more on winning now, rather than worrying about where they may land in the bowl structure.
"We just want to win, for the most part," said senior defensive tackle Nick Eason. "Winning will get you to a bowl game. Right now we're just taking it game by game and not looking toward the future. We've got a tough road ahead of us. Our schedule gets tougher as we go along."
Assuming the Tigers do win one of their final three games - home games against Maryland and South Carolina follow today's matchup at UNC - Clemson's bowl possibilities as they tie in to the Atlantic Coast Conference appear to be down to three:
The Seattle Bowl, The Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and the brand new Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte. A sweep of the three remaining games and an 8-4 record might give the Tigers an outside shot at the Peach Bowl.
The most intriguing possibility? A Dec. 28 matchup in Charlotte against West Virginia, coached by former Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.
THE GAME: The Tar Heels play their final home game of the 2002 season when they tangle with long-time rival Clemson for the 51st time in a series that started in 1897 ... Clemson leads the series 31-18-1, but North Carolina has won four of the last six meetings ... the Tigers are 13-9-1 in Kenan Stadium and have won five of the last eight games played in Chapel Hill.
LAST YEAR: Darian Durant completed 11 of 11 passes for 97 yards and one TD and Andre Williams ran for 91 yards and one score as UNC handed the 13th-ranked Tigers a 38-3 defeat in Death Valley.
THE COACHES: Tommy Bowden is 27-18 in four years at Clemson and 46-21 in six seasons overall ... John Bunting is 10-12 in two years at UNC and 48-26-2 in six seasons overall.
- Under Bowden, the Tigers are 9-6 in ACC road games.
- North Carolina has held Clemson under 275 yards in total offense in six of the last nine meetings and have allowed the Tigers only 252.2 yards per game over that span.
- The team with the most rushing yardage has won six in a row in the series, and nine of the last 10 meetings.
- Clemson leads the ACC and is 19th in Division I-A in pass defense (176.4) while UNC leads the ACC and is 16th nationally in passing offense, averaging 280.9 yards per game.
- North Carolina's Tar Heels have thrown for 200 or more yards in 15 of their last 16 games ... Clemson is eighth in the nation with 15 interceptions and has picked off at one pass in 10 of its last 11 games.