Note: The following appears in the South Carolina football gameday program.
While we honored the Clemson seniors last weekend prior to the Miami (Fla.) game, today is the final home game for Dabo Swinney’s seniors. I have written The Last Word in the final home gameday program on the senior class since I took over writing this column from Bob Bradley in 2000, and I continue that tradition today.
There were 26 “seniors” honored last weekend on Senior Day. It is not as easy to identify “seniors” as it used to be. The COVID-19 pandemic and the four-game redshirt rule have resulted in “senior” classes spreading over three, four, five and six years.
There could be players on the list on the page that decide to return for the 2023 season. In 2017, Christian Wilkins went through “Senior Day” ceremonies, then announced in January that he decided to return for 2018.
For the sake of consistency, we will look at the 2022 senior class in a four-year window that started with the 2019 season. Here are some facts on the class.
• The class has a 44-7 record, the third-most wins in the nation during that time period. Only seven Tiger senior classes have totaled 45+ wins.• The class has been a big reason the Tigers have qualified for three ACC Championship Games. Only 10 Clemson senior classes have won three or more ACC titles. Recent senior classes from 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 have done it.• This class has won 37 games against Power Five Conference opponents, tied with Georgia for most in the nation since 2019.• Swinney’s program has ranked in the AP top 25 for 55 polls. That is tied for the fifth-most appearances in the last four years. When it comes to top-10 rankings, the Tigers have 50 appearances, fourth most in the nation. When it comes to top-five rankings, Clemson is third with 45. In 14 polls over the last four years, Clemson has been ranked No. 1. That is 14 of the 25 all-time appearances in the top spot.• This class is 25-0 at Death Valley. The record is 27-0, set by the senior classes of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. It has been a part of 25 of the 40 consecutive wins Clemson has accumulated since 2016.• The group has been to two College Football Playoffs (2019,20) and the CFP National Championship Game during the 2019 season.• This class has a 30-3 record against ACC teams, the best mark by far in league competition, and has a 9-5 record against top-25 teams, including a 3-0 record in 2022.• With the win over Miami last weekend, the class continued the streak of consecutive 10-win seasons to 12, the third-longest streak in history.
While we note all of these on-field accomplishments, Swinney will think of the comebacks that this class made over the last four years. It has made a lasting effect on the program’s culture.
“One of the accomplishments I think about when it comes to this class is coming back from a 4-3 start in 2021 to finish 10-3, and continue that to a 14-game winning streak this year, the longest streak in the country at the time.
“You don’t do something like that without an investment by the players. They all put in the time and the work in the offseason, the spring and during the season. They all knew what it took to be successful.
“I am also so proud of what they have all done academically. We will have 30 graduates on our roster when we play a bowl game.”