Sunday, September 23, 2018
Sports

Clemson: Puzzling, close and perfect

Clemson has five wins by seven points or less and a negative turnover ratio on the season. But the only thing that matters to coach Dabo Swinney is that the Tigers are still unbeaten.

With Saturday's 37-34 win at Florida State, the third-ranked Tigers have firm control of the ACC's Atlantic Division and are in solid position for a return trip to the College Football Playoff.

"We're 8-0. We didn't win the division (Saturday), but we've got two hands on the steering wheel," Swinney said.

The only team that can catch Clemson in the division is No. 5 Louisville, but if they tie, the Tigers (5-0 division) have the tiebreaker after a 42-36 win Oct. 1.

The Cardinals (8-1, 6-0) finish conference play at Boston College and against Wake Forest. Clemson hots Syracuse on Saturday and Pitt before going to Wake.

Swinney did acknowledge though that the win at Doak Campbell Stadium — which was Clemson's first since 2006 — was a big goal that they wanted to accomplish: "We've still got some work to do, but we're certainly on track. I thought we played much better two years ago, but we lost (23-17 in overtime). This was a school-record ninth straight road win and to get it here is special."

While Swinney loves his team's resolve in close games, the Tigers have made things difficult on themselves. Clemson goes into this week's game against Syracuse with a minus-one turnover margin this season. "I'm just going to quit worrying about that. It just doesn't make sense. It's the dadgummest thing I've ever seen," Swinney said.

AP POLL: Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington are atop the Associated Press Top 25, but the Big 12 was left without a top-10 team after a weekend during which four unbeatens lost. Florida jumped to No. 10, while Florida State dropped to No. 19 two days before the College Football Playoff selection committee unveils its first rankings of the season. It's the first time in the history of the Big 12 — started in 1996 — that it enters November with no top-10 teams in the poll.

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