College Sports

Clemson notebook: A chance for Tigers to join elite group

ORLANDO, Fla. — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney feels his team is in a good frame of mind as there is much to play for against the Sooners.

“We have a chance for a 10-win season for the fourth straight year. Only Alabama, Oregon and Northern Illinois have done that and we are the only team in the nation that can join them with a bowl win. That is the type of consistency we want to be known for. We also have a chance for a third straight bowl win, something that has not been done at Clemson since the 1986-90 era.”

Swinney also said it would mean something to beat a program as strong as Oklahoma and add them to the list of recent bowl wins over LSU and Ohio State. A Clemson win over the Sooners would give Clemson bowl wins over three programs that have won the National Championship since 2000.

“Oklahoma is one of the great programs in America. They were ranked number-one by a lot of people coming into this season. Their season has shown how three or four plays can make a difference.”

Wednesday afternoon the team headed to Disney World. The Tigers will have a Christmas celebration at brunch on Thursday morning, then have a two-hour practice in the afternoon at Thunder Field, which is a facility adjacent to the Orlando Citrus Bowl.

FAST ON TURF: The Orlando Citrus Bowl has artificial turf, which should put a smile on the faces of Clemson coaches and players. Clemson has won nine straight games on artificial turf dating to the 2010 season and the current senior class is 8-0 on artificial turf.

LET’S MAKE IT THREE: Clemson is looking for its third straight bowl victory, something the program has not done since the 1986-90 era when the program won five in a row. Two of those five wins came in the Orlando Citrus Bowl, the site of Monday’s game. Clemson beat Penn State in the 1988 Citrus Bowl and Oklahoma in the 1989 Citrus Bowl.

TOP 15: With 41 wins, Clemson is one of the top 15 winningest programs in the nation over the last four years. If Clemson can defeat Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Clemson would have beaten seven of the other top 14 schools on the list. Clemson’s seniors have already beaten Florida State, Ohio State, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisville since they joined the program in 2011.

LIKE THE WEATHER: Less than 24 hours after arriving in the Sunshine State, the Sooners bussed 10 minutes up the road to The First Academy — a local private high school and the alma mater of OU nutritionist, Tiffany Byrd — for the first practice of the busy bowl week in preparation for the Dec. 29 matchup against Clemson.

One noticeable difference for the OU coaches and players from the practices in Norman was the amount of humidity in the air. Head coach Bob Stoops commented on the weather after the first practice session wrapped up.

“Well the weather here is a little more humid than in Norman,” said Stoops. “I remember what the humidity is like here and my players are getting a little taste of it. The humidity is quite a bit different but we managed.”

Even center Ty Darlington, a Sooner who spent his whole life in Florida before going to OU three years ago, had to readjust back to the different climate.

“The weather here is definitely different,” said Darlington. “I didn’t notice the humidity growing up and then when I came back after being in Oklahoma for so long it hits you hard. It will take a little bit for all of us to get used to it. We’ll be ready. Our strength staff is the best and they are on top of it and will have us ready to go.”

PROUD BOWL HISTORY: Clemson has a rich tradition and one of the reasons has been Clemson’s success against schools with legendary coaches in bowl games. Clemson has defeated seven of the top 15 winningest programs in bowl games. The list includes Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, LSU, Penn Sate and West Virginia. Clemson has 18 bowl wins overall, 19th highest in FBS history.

Of course, Clemson’s greatest bowl experience was the National Championship clinching victory over Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl. The Tigers ranked No. 1 in the nation entering that contest and faced a fourth-ranked Nebraska team and coach Tom Osborne. Danny Ford led the Tigers to a 22-15 victory to give the Tigers the national title and made him the youngest (33) coach of a national championship team in college football history. He still holds that distinction.

Clemson’s first bowl game was in the 1940 Cotton Bowl when the Tigers defeated Frank Leahy and Boston College, 6-3.

Clemson won its first three bowl games, victories over Boston College, Missouri, and Miami (FL). The three coaches Clemson defeated in those games were Frank Leahy, Don Faurot, and Andy Gustafson, and all three are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Clemson has a football program that has been steady over the years in bowl games, no matter who has led the program as head coach. No less than seven different head coaches (Jess Neely, Frank Howard, Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West, Tommy Bowden and Dabo Swinney) have won bowl games for the Tigers.

Overall, 10 of Clemson’s 18 bowl victories (including 2012 inductee Phillip Fulmer) have come against coaches who are in the College Football Hall of Fame. That includes Joe Paterno, who suffered his worst margin of defeat in a bowl game to Clemson in 1987. Clemson has four bowl victories over coaches who are in the 200-victory club. Woody Hayes of Ohio State, Tom Osborne of Nebraska, Joe Paterno of Penn State and Don Nehlen of West Virginia are all coaches with at least 200 wins who lost bowl games to Clemson.