Swinney previews Miami, says Tigers preparing for CFP play-in game


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Swinney and the Tigers will have another shot at the Playoff if they beat Miami
Swinney and the Tigers will have another shot at the Playoff if they beat Miami

The last time Clemson faced Miami was in 2015 as the Tigers escorted former Canes head coach Al Golden out of his position with a 58-0 dismantling in front of a sparse home crowd.

Fast forward two years and current head coach Mark Richt has turned the program around as the Canes have a chance to win their first conference championship since joining the ACC.

During the ACC Championship Game teleconference, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Miami is a different program than where they were two years ago.

“That's night and day. The last time we played them, they had a lot of talent, but they just for whatever reason that day, it just was -- just everything kind of went our way,” Swinney said Sunday evening. “But they've never been lacking for talent. I just think that -- listen, give Mark a lot of credit. He's come in there and really pulled it all together and given them a clear identity. They're playing with great energy, great effort. They're just impressive. I've seen them a couple times on TV this year, and I've seen them in a couple of crossover tapes where I've been preparing for another team.

“Know a little bit about them. They look like Miami. When you think about Miami, there's a certain image that pops up in your head, and that's what they look like. They're running the ball well. They've got a quarterback that's played very well for them all year. They've hit some big plays at critical times. They've found ways to win games. And then defensively they've created a bunch of turnovers. They've earned it. I mean, it's been a heck of a year for them, and we know it's going to be a big challenge for us. But that's the way it should be when you get in a championship game. Should be good-on-good, and that's what you've got.”

Swinney said he knew it wouldn’t take Richt long to get the Miami football program turned around.

“No question. Coach Richt is a great coach and has been forever. He's done an unbelievable job his entire career,” Swinney said. “I've always had a lot of respect for him and how he handles his business and the type of man he is. He's got a great family. He loves his players, and he's a great competitor. There's no question when he got this job -- he played there, you know he's going to have a good understanding of the culture there and so forth. It's been fun to watch him pull it together. I knew it wouldn't take him long.”

Swinney said he’s looking forward to Saturday’s game (8 p.m.) at Bank of America Stadium, a game no one picked Clemson to play in during the pre-season.

“First of all, I'd just like to congratulate Miami on an unbelievable year, just a phenomenal season, and Coach Richt has done an amazing job down there,” Swinney said. “No big shocker there. He's always done a great job. But got a lot of respect for Coach Richt and the job he does, and just incredible to watch what they've done this year. So we look forward to competing against them.

“But man, I'm really proud of our team. We're a team that not many people picked to win the division, much less the league, and our guys have just gotten better as the year has gone on. We've really developed, I think, a good chemistry. We've had a lot of guys step up. I think we've developed some depth, and just really love how we finished. So a great season, 11-1, and we're really excited about representing the Atlantic, and it's going to be an awesome venue in Charlotte. It's good to be back in Charlotte. I know it's going to be a great environment to play the championship game, and again, we're just looking forward to competing against a great Miami team, and it comes down to four quarters, and it's an exciting time to have the opportunity to still play one more week.”

Swinney said he realizes that the ACC Championship game is essentially a play-in for the College Football Playoff, as it should be.

“I mean, I think that every year depends on kind of what's going on. I mean, I think if we were both 8-4, then I wouldn't necessarily think that it's an automatic play-in,” Swinney said. “But I think where we are right now, the season we've had, the season Miami has had, I don't think there's any question that the winner of this league -- this is a very difficult league, a very difficult league.

“Just saw a thing today, where ACC is 13-3 versus the SEC in rivalry games over the last three years. That's what we play against week in and week out. There's a lot of teams going to be going to bowl games from this league once again, so I don't think there's any question with the year Miami has had and we've had, the winner of this league is definitely going to be in the playoff and deservedly so.”

Other notes

Injuries

“Yeah, we'll assess those guys further in the morning. Just kind of meeting -- they've been in treatment this afternoon, and we'll know a little bit more where we are as we go through the week, but I think everybody should be -- I don't see anybody not being able to play this week. The main guy is Tre Lamar, just kind of evaluating where he is.

“He (Travis Etienne) was a little banged up but I don't think anything too serious. Chad Smith was back yesterday in last night's game. He was dressed and ready to play, so he's back. Lamar, still not sure on him. It's early in the week; it'll be a day-to-day thing.”

On his team being ranked No. 1”

“Well, to be quite honest with you, this is the first time I've heard that, so no. The one that matters is that CFP poll because that's the one that's going to determine your postseason. I mean, it's an honor, I guess. I literally -- it's the first I've heard that. But that's great. Again, the CFP poll is the one that really matters this time of year, and you know, it's great to have the respect of the AP and the coaches and so forth, but at the end of the day, it's the CFP poll that's going to, again, determine your opportunity postseason. Really all they can do is kind of react to what we do. We really determine it based on how we play at this point.

“For us, we've just got to stay focused on what we can control and just try to play the best four quarters of the season, and if we can do that, then I think being the ACC champion and 12-1 would give us a seat at the table. It definitely is important to be in good position going into this last weekend.”

On getting the ACC Championship Game back to Charlotte:

“It's good to be back in Charlotte. Listen, the Orlando folks were amazing and gracious hosts, and it was a great experience for us last year, and obviously in a kind of pull-it-together-quick situation, it was great, and we really enjoyed it. But it's good to be back in Charlotte. It really is. It's a great venue, and it's going to be an awesome crowd, GameDay and all that stuff, and it's an excellent location for everyone. Should be fun. We're glad that it's back there.”

On if he’s heard anything from South Carolina officials after the incidents on Saturday:

“Not that I know of.”

On defensive coordinator Brent Venables being rumored for open head coaching jobs:
“We are 100 percent focused on Miami. I don't know anything about that, and I never get too worried or focused on any of that stuff. There's a million rumors and whatever. Our focus and Brent's focus is on -- I promise you, is on getting ready for Miami. But I've always had a policy if guys have opportunities somewhere down the road that they think is good for them, then that's great. But nobody is sitting around worrying about any of that stuff. Everybody is focused on trying to beat Miami this week, and that's it.”

On Miami QB Malik Rosier and the Miami offense:

“Yeah, like I said earlier, I've seen them a couple times. Haven't really gotten deep into who they are and philosophy and all that. That'll come later tonight and tomorrow. But I've been impressed with them. First of all, they're running the ball very well. That No. 24 -- I know they had one back get hurt, but that No. 24 is a heck of a back. I think he's 24. And the quarterback has played very well. He's come up big for them time and time again.

“They've had some huge plays at critical times. Tight end is a very good player. So I mean, and then they do an excellent job of how they manage their scheme and putting those guys in position to be successful. They've got an outstanding little slot receiver, the Berrios kid, you notice him a lot. He's a great return guy, too. So they're dynamic, man. They've got great skill just like you'd think Miami would have, and then defensively they're playing outstanding. So it's been a good combination for them throughout the year.”

On Clemson’s experience in big games:

“Well, I think it helps when you have a bunch of -- I mean, we have a lot of experience as a program, but we're a very young team. We only have six scholarship seniors on our roster. We've got a pretty good junior class, but we're mostly freshmen and sophomores. We're still a young team, but I do think that, again, it's just another big game, and this team this year has been in a lot of big games.

“We've had, I mean, GameDay at Louisville, GameDay at Virginia Tech. I don't think it was GameDay at NC State, but it was a monstrous game. Obviously a huge game this past weekend. I mean, these guys have been in a lot of big games this year, and at the end of the day, it's similar to that, and so has Miami. They've been in some huge games, as well. I think both teams have great experience to draw on from just this season, and that's really what matters.”

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