Tigers are in "Championship, destroy everything mode"


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Clemson's defense is in destroy everything mode
Clemson's defense is in destroy everything mode

CLEMSON – Championship, destroy everything mode. It’s just Clemson’s culture.

Sports Illustrated and ESPNU Radio contributor Andy Staples told a Miami sports radio station that Clemson flips a switch every year to go into championship mode.

“They (Miami) can (win), although I fear Clemson has flipped that switch into "Championship-Destroy-Everyone mode" -- which they have...they have that capability,” Staples said earlier this week. “There's a switch down there somewhere in their fancy new football complex. It's either by the Slide or next to the bathrooms. Dabo just walks by and says "Ok...it's time to stop messin' around" -- and he just flips the switch and they start killin' everyone!”

While Staples illustration may be a little bit of an exaggeration, playing in big games and winning championships is now in Clemson’s DNA.

The Tigers will play in their third consecutive ACC Championship when they take on Miami (8:14 p.m., ABC) in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. They played in back-to-back College Football Playoff games and back-to-back national championships, so the stage can’t get any bigger.

While the 2017 Clemson squad is relatively young with just nine scholarship seniors, head coach Dabo Swinney said it’s the culture that allows the program to continue having success year after year.

“I think it helps having a culture that understands what it takes because your team changes every year, but if you do a really good job and nurture the cultural of your program that can kind of transfers,” Swinney said after practice Wednesday night. “But the leadership of our team, and there is no question, when you got guys that have been there and have experienced big games, they understand that is what we do. Every week is a big game. If you come to Clemson, I don’t care who we play, it is going to be the biggest game of the year because we are Clemson.”

The leadership of guys like Christian Wilkins, Kelly Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel make Swinney’s job even easier because he simply has to guide his players while leaving the tough job of leading to the players.

“Because of these last seven years, we've been in a lot of big games,” Swinney said. “You try to carry that over from year to year with leadership of your teams because the best teams that I have been on as a player, the best teams I have been on as a coach, they are really player led,” he said. “I just try to guide them and keep them on track and every now and again I’ll have to get them back in line. But the best teams are player led and this is a perfect example of that type of team. These guys get it.”

While many fans, analysts and even Vegas, who has Clemson as a 9.5 point favorite, see Saturdays game against the Canes as an easy win for the Tigers, Swinney and his players are preparing for the best Miami has to offer.

“That is a lot of games so trust me, when we line up to play, you are going to get every opponent’s best version of themselves every single week,” Swinney said. “Maximum juice and maximum energy, so from our standpoint, our guys just understand that. We just try to get ready every week. We don’t vary how much we try to get ready, not very much at all. We just try to play well and try to create that pride in performance and that consistency in performance, that's what we try to focus on.”

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