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Jan 30, 2024

2024 Spring Guide: The Clemson Football Standard


Alabama and Clemson rank No. 1 and 2 in the country in wins since 2015, with the two teams combining for five out of eight national championships in that time frame. With a dominating win in the 2022 ACC Championship Game, Clemson became the second program in the FBS to win 100 games since 2015.

Clemson has a 151-28 record since 2011, one of only two programs with 150 wins in that span.

Clemson’s lofty perch in that ranking reflects not only its dominance against middle- and lower-tier opponents, but also its success in matchups with other premier programs. From 2011-23, 41 different programs currently in Power Five conferences recorded at least 90 wins in that span. Clemson has played 16 of those 41 programs since 2011 and is 68-21 (.764) in those contests and is .500 or better against 14 of the 16 teams.


Though Clemson’s streak of 12 consecutive 10-win seasons concluded in 2023, Clemson won each of its final five games of the year to conclude the year at 9-4. It was Clemson’s 13th consecutive season with nine or more wins, the nation’s second-longest active streak, and it ranks tied for fourth in major college football history.

Of the now 134 active FBS schools, only nine programs won at least six games at the FBS level every year from 2015-23. That number dipped to five when pushing the total to seven wins and to two when dropping it to nine wins.

Before the streak concluded in 2023, Clemson’s 12 consecutive 10-win seasons from 2011-22 were the third-longest streak in FBS history, alongside Saban-era Alabama squads and Bowden-era Florida State teams.


Clemson cemented itself as one of the tournament’s powerhouses of the College Football Playoff’s inaugural decade. In the 10-year history of the four-team format, only 15 programs earned at least one College Football Playoff berth, and Clemson ranked second in CFP berths, CFP title game appearances, total CFP wins and CFP titles.

With a No. 22 ranking in the final College Football Playoff rankings in 2023, Clemson became one of three programs (alongside Alabama and Ohio State) to finish in the CFP Top 25 in all 10 years of the four-team format.

Among the 15 programs ever to qualify for the College Football Playoff in its inaugural decade, Clemson was one of only five to hold a positive point differential in CFP play. Clemson also owns three of the eight largest wins by point differential in CFP history and is the only program to win three CFP games by at least 25 points.

Clemson’s six-year streak of College Football Playoff berths from 2015-20 remains the longest streak in the format’s history.

775+ WINS

On Nov. 13, 2021, Clemson became the first ACC program and 14th FBS program to reach 775 wins with a victory against UConn. In 2023, Clemson will attempt to become the first ACC member to reach 800 all-time victories.


Between ACC Championship Games, bowl games and College Football Playoff National Championship Games, Clemson has won at least one postseason game in each of the last 13 years, the longest streak in FBS history.

The last time Clemson did not win at least one postseason game was in 2010, when Clemson lost in the Meineke Car Care Bowl after not qualifying for the ACC Championship Game.


In 2020, Clemson became the first program ever to win 20 ACC Championships. That year, Clemson became the first program in the conference championship game era to win six straight conference championship games. Clemson also became the first ACC program to win six consecutive outright titles, as Florida State had a streak of nine straight ACC titles, but that streak included two co-championships that prevented Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles from ever winning more than three straight titles outright.

Clemson’s 2022 ACC title was the program’s seventh in eight years, as the Tigers became the first team in an active Power Five conference to win seven outright conference titles in an eight-year span since Alabama won eight SEC titles in nine seasons from 1971-79.

Including titles from its days as a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Southern Conference, Clemson has 27 conference championships overall, also the most of any current ACC school. Duke ranks second among the ACC’s current membership with 18 overall conference titles, including 11 Southern Conference titles and seven ACC titles.

The Tigers won the 1900, 1902 and 1903 SIAA Conference championships under John Heisman, then the 1906 SIAA title under Bob Williams. Clemson also won the 1940 and 1948 Southern Conference titles under Frank Howard. Howard won eight total conference titles, including two in the Southern Conference and six in the ACC. Swinney matched Howard with his eighth conference title in 2022.

Clemson’s 27 conference titles all-time are the 11th-most among active FBS programs.

For the last quarter-century, Clemson’s ACC success has not been a roller-coaster ride of lofty heights and deep lows. The last time Clemson finished a season below .500 in regular season confernce play was in 1998, when Tommy West’s 3-8 squad went 1-7 in ACC play. Clemson’s 25-year streak of being .500 or better in conference play is tied for the longest active streak in the country and tied for the fourth-longest of any streak since 1966.


Early in his head coaching tenure, Dabo Swinney laid out his belief to then-Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips that the Tigers needed to add tough non-conference challenges on top of their tests in ACC play to serve as a foundation for the program’s growth.

“I had a conversation with Terry Don and said, ‘Terry Don, I know we are not very good right now, but we need to play people because that is going to help me teach and help me develop the culture and the mindset that you have to have to win at the highest level,'” recounted Swinney. “I didn’t think we had that, and that’s what we committed to. That’s what we’ve done.”

That scheduling philosophy and culture change has resonated in the Clemson program, and since 2013, no team can claim more wins against Power Five Conference opponents than the Tigers. On Nov. 12, 2022, Clemson became the first program to reach 100 victories against Power Five opponents since 2013.

Clemson’s national-best 109 Power Five wins since 2013 include victories against Wake Forest (11), Boston College (10), Syracuse (10), Georgia Tech (10), NC State (8), Louisville (8), South Carolina (8), Florida State (7), North Carolina (5), Miami (4), Notre Dame (4), Ohio State (3), Virginia (3), Virginia Tech (3), Alabama (2), Pitt (2), Auburn (2), Oklahoma (2), Texas A&M (2), Georgia (1), Duke (1), Maryland (1), Iowa State (1) and Kentucky (1).

On a year-by-year basis, Clemson has finished the season atop the country in wins against Power Five opponents four times since the institution of the College Football Playoff in 2014, including four of the last seven years. That includes 13 wins against Power Five opponents in 2018, the first team ever to reach that figure.


While proud of his incoming classes, Head Coach Dabo Swinney has long stated that a true ranking of a recruiting class cannot and should not be published until four years later when the group can be evaluated on performance rather than potential.

Much to Swinney’s delight, The Athletic has annually assumed that role in recent years, re-ranking every recruiting class four years later to account for on-field performance.

For its re-rankings, The Athletic uses the following grading scale: 5 points: All-American, award winner, top-50 NFL Draft pick; 4: Multi-year starter, all-conference honors; 3: One-year starter or key reserve; 2: Career backup; 0: Minor or no contribution, left the program. The outlet also adds a bonus to each program’s class average, derived from its total number of wins from 2017 through 2020 (e.g.: For re-ranking the Class of 2017, Clemson won 51 games, so its class average received a bonus of 0.51).

Even in its current stretch of recruiting success, Swinney has pointed out that Clemson often falls in rankings as its commitment to not oversigning leads to smaller recruiting classes, as well as noting that much of Clemson’s on-field success is a function of the program’s development, citing All-Americans like former three-star Isaiah Simmons or former two-star Nolan Turner. The re-rankings illustrate Clemson’s impressive track record of talent identification, culture fit, resource allocation and player development.

On average, Clemson ranked 11.5 in the 247 Composite team rankings across the 2014-19 recruiting cycles. Upon re-ranking those groups, despite having little room for improvement while recruiting at a Top 15 clip in that span, Clemson ranked 3.5 on average in the re-rankings, a ratings bump of eight spots. Each of those Clemson classes averaged at least 11 wins a season during their careers.


College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard, known as “The Bashful Baron of Barlow Bend,” compiled a 165–118–12 record in 30 seasons at Clemson from 1940-69.

With a 31-23 upset of No. 12 Notre Dame in 2023, Dabo Swinney earned his 166th career victory as Clemson’s head coach, surpassing Howard to become Clemson’s all-time winningest coach. Swinney accomplished the feat in his 209th career game.


Head Coach Dabo Swinney ranks atop the NCAA’s list of winningest active head coaches by percentage with a minimum of 10 years of experience.

Swinney’s tenure at Clemson has placed him not just atop that list but in the company of college football legends. The Tiger head-man boasts a career winning percentage of .798.  Prior to a two-game losing streak in October 2023, he was among only 13 other head coaches in history with at least 10 seasons of FBS head coaching experience to post a mark of .800 or better.


Swinney ranks eighth among active FBS head coaches in total wins despite having coached fewer seasons than all of the coaches listed ahead of him. When removing wins at lower collegiate levels, Swinney ranks third among active coaches in wins as an FBS head coach.


Over the last decade-and-a-half, Clemson became a beacon of stability in the increasingly unstable environment of college football. Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney is in his 22nd overall season at Clemson in 2024, including his 16th full season as head coach (and his 17th including an interim stint in 2008).

From the start of Swinney’s first season as full-time head coach in 2009 through 2023, there were 465 head coaching tenures in the FBS (excluding those by interims) but only one such tenure at Clemson.

Entering this postseason, Clemson is the only school in the ACC with only one head coach since the start of the 2009 season, and among the 15 schools ever to qualify for the College Football Playoff, only Clemson has had only one head coach since 2009.

By date of initial hire (including interim hires), Swinney entered 2024 as the fifth-longest-tenured head coach in the FBS and the fourth-longest-tenured among Power Five conference head coaches.

Including his time as an assistant coach, the 2024 season is Swinney’s 22nd at Clemson. Swinney is one of only six active FBS coaches to have been with their current program in a coaching capacity for 20+ years.


While the term “Final Four” may still be the linguistic property of college basketball, since the advent of the four-team College Football Playoff in 2014, Head Coach Dabo Swinney had Clemson among the sport’s final four teams six times from 2015-20, becoming the first coach to lead a team to six consecutive College Football Playoffs since the format’s institution in 2014.

The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament dates to 1939. In the history of that tournament, only John Wooden of UCLA (nine from 1967-75) and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (five from 1988-92) coached teams to at least five consecutive Final Fours. With his sixth “Final Four” appearance in 2020, Swinney joined basketball’s Wooden as the only college football or men’s basketball coaches to take teams to six consecutive Final Fours in their respective sports.

Swinney is among only nine coaches in football and men’s basketball to record six career Final Four berths.  He is one of only six with a winning record in Final Four games.

Swinney’s ability to place his team among the nation’s elite quartet has also been illustrated by the polls. Clemson finished first in the AP Poll in 2016 and 2018, second in 2015 and 2019, third in 2020 and fourth in 2017. Swinney became just the fourth coach to record at least six consecutive top four finishes since the AP Poll began in 1936, an exclusive list that also includes Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (13), USC’s Pete Carroll (seven) and Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson (six).

Clemson’s streak represented the fifth time a program has had a run of at least six top four finishes in the AP Poll. Miami (Fla.) had a seven-year run from 1986-92 with two different head coaches leading the program.

Swinney ranks second among coaches in both College Football Playoff appearances and College Football Playoff wins. Though the College Football Playoff’s first 10 years, only 10 head coaches ever won a CFP game, and only six have won a CFP national championship.


The 2022 Orange Bowl was the 200th game in Dabo Swinney’s head coaching career. Among coaches who qualify for the NCAA FBS record book by virtue of five years or 50 wins as a major college head coach, 17 coaches had earned at least 150 victories in their first 200 career games as head coach as of the conclusion of the 2022 season.

At 161-39 through 200 games, Swinney tied Bob Stoops and Robert Neyland (162 each) for the fifth-most wins through 200 career games in major college football history.


Four previous Clemson head coaches earned 150+ FBS wins in their careers: John Heisman (186), Jess Neely (207), Frank Howard (165) and Ken Hatfield (168). Howard, a College Football Hall of Famer, recorded his 150th victory in his 273rd career game, in a 14-10 victory against Maryland in 1966 that clinched a piece of what later became an outright ACC title. Heisman earned win No. 150 in game No. 203, Neely earned it in game No. 268, and Hatfield did it in game 259, though none of those three won more than 43 games in their Clemson tenures.

Included below are the number of games needed for a sample of other notable coaches to reach 150 victories: John Vaught (201), Mark Richt (205), Red Blaik (207), Dan Devine (208), Woody Hayes (209), Bear Bryant (212), Ara Parseghian (212), Pat Dye (212), Bobby Bowden (213), Pop Warner (214), LaVell Edwards (214), Jim Tressel (214), Vince Dooley (214), Amos Alonzo Stagg (225), John Cooper (225), Frank Beamer (230), Lou Holtz (230), Bill Snyder (231), Johnny Majors (255), George Welsh (261), Hayden Fry (277).


Dabo Swinney completed his 15th season (and his 14th full season) in 2022 with a 161-39 record. Swinney amassed the second-most wins through a coach’s first 15 seasons in FBS history despite not having the benefit of a full season in his first year, as he went 4-3 on an interim basis in his first season in 2008 after taking over for Tommy Bowden in October.


Head Coach Dabo Swinney is perched atop ACC history in overall winning percentage with a mark of .798. Until dipping below the .800 mark after two losses in October, he was the only coach in ACC history with a career winning percentage of .800 or better with a minimum of three ACC seasons.

Swinney also boasts a 103-23 record in ACC regular season games, a winning percentage of .817, ahead of College Football Hall of Famer Bobby Bowden’s previous conference record of .813. With a win at Syracuse last September, Swinney became the second head coach in ACC history to win 100 career regular season games in conference play.

Swinney’s 101st career regular-season conference win pushed him past Frank Howard (100) for sole possession of the Clemson record for career regular season conference victories. Howard went 100-48-5 in conference play across the Southern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, including 66 ACC wins.

On a non-percentage basis, Swinney ranks second in ACC history in career victories leading an ACC program, joining Bobby Bowden as the only coaches to win 150 games as ACC coaches.

In 2023, Swinney became the first head coach ever to lead an ACC team in 20 career bowl games. His win in the 2023 Gator Bowl was his 12th career bowl victory, passing Bobby Bowden’s conference record for bowl wins as head coach of an ACC team.

With his eighth conference title in 2022, Swinney caught College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard in total conference championships. Howard led Clemson to eight conference titles, including two Southern Conference championships and six ACC crowns.

Swinney’s eight ACC titles are the second-most since the conference’s founding in 1953.



Since the conference’s founding in 1953, no program has won more regular season games in Atlantic Coast Conference play than Clemson. In 2020, Clemson earned its 300th official regular season victory over an ACC opponent, becoming the first program to accomplish the feat.


After being named Clemson’s full-time coach in December of 2008, Head Coach Dabo Swinney set about securing his first signing class in 2009.

His first class, which he tabbed the “Dandy Dozen,” brought home Clemson’s first ACC title since 1991 during their junior campaign in 2011. Every Clemson signing class under Swinney except its two most recent classes has at least one ACC title to their credit in their tenures at Clemson, and every signing class from 2012-20 earned at least one College Football Playoff berth.


Clemson finished the 2010s with 117 victories, tied for the third-most victories in a decade in major college football since the 1890s, trailing only Penn (124 in the 1890s) and Alabama (124 in the 2010s). As Clemson seeks a 40th win since 2020, Clemson is already ahead of its pace from last decade.


With a berth in the Gator Bowl last year, Clemson extended its school-record bowl streak to 19 years. Clemson’s 19-year bowl streak is the longest in the ACC and the fifth-longest in the country.

Clemson’s 19-year streak dates back to a 19-10 Champs Sports Bowl win against Colorado to close the 2005 season. At 19 years, the streak nearly triples Clemson’s previous longest streak, which covered seven seasons from 1985-91.

Though Clemson opted against a bowl appearance in 2004, Clemson has been bowl eligible in 25 consecutive seasons, dating back to a 1999 appearance in the Peach Bowl.

The 2023 Gator Bowl was Clemson’s 50th bowl game all-time, making Clemson the 12th program in history to appear in at least 50 bowl games.


Clemson has appeared in the Top 25 of 184 of a possible 212 AP polls (86.8 percent) since 2011, fourth-most in the nation.

Clemson is four poll appearances shy of becoming the 18th program in history to be ranked in 500 AP Polls all-time.

Clemson was ranked in the top 25 of 107 consecutive AP polls across the 2014-21 seasons, which was the second-longest active streak in the nation prior to its conclusion. It was the longest streak in school history, more than doubling 50-poll streaks from both 2011-14 and 1989-92.

Clemson was ranked in 21 consecutive polls from 2021-23 before dropping out of the Top 25 following a 49-point win in Week 2.

Prior to dropping to No. 6 following a one-possession loss to the eventual national champions in the 2021 season opener, Clemson had ranked in the Top 5 of 57 consecutive polls, dating to 2017. That ranked as the second-longest Top 5 streak in the history of the AP Poll, which dates to 1936.

Clemson’s school record streak of consecutive polls in the AP Top 10 from 2017-21 concluded at 97, the third-longest streak in poll history.


Clemson has finished ranked in the AP Top 25 in each of the last 13 seasons, the second-longest streak in the country. Clemson is one of only three teams with a streak of at least 10 years and is one of only five teams to finish ranked in each of the last seven seasons.

Clemson’s 13-year streak is now tied for the ninth-longest in the AP Poll era.

From 2015-20, Clemson recorded six consecutive AP Top 5 finishes, tied for the fifth-longest streak in AP Poll history.

Under Swinney, Clemson set a new school record for longest number of consecutive seasons ranked in the AP Top 25 (13 from 2011-13), exceeding the previous record of 12 from 1986-97.


Since 2015, Clemson is 30-9 (.769) against AP Top 25 teams, the second-best winning percentage in the country.

Clemson is also 13-8 (.619) against AP Top 10 opponents in that time frame, one of only five teams in college football to produce at least a dozen wins against Top 10 foes in that span.

Clemson’s success also hasn’t been limited to opponents with bloated preseason rankings at kickoff time. Since 2015, Clemson’s 67 wins against teams that finish .500 or better are second-most in the nation. Clemson’s .807 winning percentage against that group ranks third.


In recent years, Clemson:
– Has won 112 of its last 129 games overall dating to 2014.
– Has won 71 of its last 80 games against ACC teams.
– Has won 114 of its last 119 games when leading at halftime.
– Is 135-4 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
– Is 80-6 when scoring first since 2015.
– Has a 131-8 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
– Has a 78-4 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
– Is 81-3 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
– Is 61-1 when both passing and rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney. Overall, Clemson is 111-1-1 in program history when reaching those marks.
– Is 69-2 since 2015 when outscoring opponents in the “Middle Eight,” defined as the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half.
– Has won 40 consecutive games when not allowing a sack since 2011.
– Is 38-1 since 2015 when intercepting multiple passes in a game.
– Has won 21 consecutive games in which it scores a non-offensive touchdown, dating to the middle of the 2017 season.
– Is 63-4 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
– Has won 36 of its last 43 games away from home against ACC teams.
– Has won 36 of its last 44 road games.
– Has won 55 of its last 69 games away from home.
– Has won 67 of its last 70 games at home, including an ACC-record 40 in a row from 2016-22.
– Has won 33 of its last 37 games in September.
– Has won 35 of its last 39 games in October.
– Has won 25 of its last 28 games in November.
– Has won 17 of its last 18 games in December.
– Has won 31 of its last 40 games against top-25 teams since the start of the 2015 season. That includes a 30-9 mark against AP Top 25 teams.
– Has won 113 of its last 114 games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010).
– Has won 38 of its last 49 one-possession games since 2011, the highest winning percentage in the country in one-score games in that span.


After a 4-4 start in 2023, Clemson won each of its final five games of the season. Clemson’s active five-game winning streak is the longest in the ACC and the third-longest in the nation. Clemson is the only school in the nation that entered 2024 with both A) a winning streak of five or more games and B) a returning head coach.

Clemson’s five-game winning streak to end 2023 was the 17th season-ending winning streak of five games or more in program history. It was Clemson’s fourth such finish under Dabo Swinney.


Clemson has won 71 of its last 80 games vs. ACC opponents, a time frame that includes ACC Championship Game wins against North Carolina (2015 and 2022), Virginia Tech (2016), Miami (2017), Pitt (2018), Virginia (2019) and Notre Dame (2020).

Clemson has a winning record in its last 10 meetings against 12 of its 13 ACC counterparts.

Clemson has active winning streaks of at least five games against more than half of its conference counterparts.

Clemson is responsible for three of the eight-longest winning streaks in ACC conference play all-time.

Clemson’s .888 winning percentage against conference competition since 2015, including postseason play, ranks third in the nation.

As a counterpoint to conjecture that Clemson’s in-conference success is reflective of the quality of ACC competition, Clemson is 14-6 against the SEC since 2015, a winning percentage that would have ranked third among the SEC’s 14 members in that span.


Since the advent of the College Football Playoff prior to the start of the 2014 season, Clemson is 65-3 at home. Clemson’s .956 winning percentage at home in that time frame is tied for the nation’s best in that span. Clemson’s three home losses in that span have come by a combined margin of nine points.

Clemson went 6-1 at home in 2023 and has now won at least six home games in each of the last 13 seasons. The next longest active streak of seasons with six or more home wins is three.

Clemson’s home wins against No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 20 North Carolina in November 2023 improved Clemson to 12-1 against ranked opponents in Death Valley since 2015. Clemson has produced at least one home win against AP Top 25 opponents in nine straight seasons, the nation’s longest active streak.


Clemson has won 36 of its last 44 true road games dating to the start of the 2015 season. Expanded to include neutral-site games, Clemson is 50-13 in games away from home in that span.

Clemson’s .818 winning percentage in true road games is the fourth-best road winning percentage in the nation since 2015. Clemson’s 36 road wins in that span are tied for the most in the country.



From Sept. 9 against Charleston Southern until Oct. 21 at Miami (Fla.) in 2023, Cade Klubnik threw 170 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. His streak ended 12 attempts shy of the top three by a quarterback in school history. Clemson’s streak as a team ended at 184 pass attempts.

For his career, Klubnik is among the most interception-averse passers in Clemson history.


Klubnik is one of only 14 quarterbacks in Clemson history to record at least one 300-yard passing game and one of only eight to record multiple 300-yard passing games.

His three career 300-yard games are tied with former teammate DJ Uiagalelei and one behind former offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter.


Klubnik already ranks in the Top 15 in program history in career passing touchdowns.


One of NFL Films’ most famous videos of its early days featured wired-up Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Hank Stram encouraging his team to “Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!”

In Klubnik’s first three collegiate starts, Clemson’s offense heeded Stram’s words, collecting 100 first downs, Clemson’s most in a three-game span on record.



Tyler Brown’s hometown of Greenville, S.C., is roughly 30 miles from Clemson, so perhaps it should have come as no surprise that he’s seemed to feel right at home in Clemson’s offense as a true freshman. Brown was one of the revelations of Clemson’s 2023 season, giving the Tigers a dynamic playmaker in slot.

Brown led Clemson in receptions and receiving yards in 2023, marking the second straight year a freshman led the team in both categories.

Brown earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors against Florida Atlantic in 2023 after recording three receptions for 49 yards and two touchdowns against the Owls, becoming the first Clemson freshman wide receiver with two receiving touchdowns in a single game since Justyn Ross against Notre Dame in the 2018 Cotton Bowl. Brown also added a 44-yard punt return in that contest. A week later, he recorded team highs and then-single-game career highs in receiving yards (84) and receptions (five) vs. No. 4 Florida State despite missing a portion of the game with a shoulder injury.

Against Syracuse the following week, he again recorded career highs in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (153). He became only the seventh player in Clemson history to record a 100-yard receiving game within the first five games of a career.

Brown’s 153 receiving yards against the Orange were the most by a Clemson true freshman since Justyn Ross’ 153 yards against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game to conclude the 2018 season. His total represented the most receiving yards by a Clemson player of any grade classification since Cornell Powell’s 176 yards against Pitt in 2020.

Brown earned both ACC Rookie of the Week and ACC Receiver of the Week for his performance at Syracuse. He joined Sammy Watkins and Deshaun Watson as the only players in school history to win multiple ACC weekly honors in a single week.

Brown finished fourth in the Power Five and seventh in the nation in receptions by a freshman in 2023.



Mild-mannered but hard-running, Phil Mafah has long been referenced as part of a one-two punch at running back alongside his roommate Will Shipley. But with Shipley out with a concussion against No. 12 Notre Dame in early November in 2023, Mafah moved from a co-starring role to featured status and ran with the opportunity.

Technically, he ran with the opportunity a school-record-tying 36 times.

Mafah recorded a career-high 186 rushing yards on those 36 carries with two rushing touchdowns in the 31-23 win against the Irish. His 36 carries tied the school record shared by Jim Shirley (36 against NC State in 1951), Ray Yauger (36 against Wake Forest in 1969) and Raymond Priester (36 against Maryland in 1997).

Mafah’s 186 yards were the most by a Clemson player since Kobe Pace’s 191-yard rushing performance against Wake Forest in 2021. It was the first 150-yard rushing game by a Clemson player since Shipley’s 172-yard rushing performance against Syracuse in 2022.

“I knew going into the game that I would probably have to take a bigger load so I just came in with a mindset that whatever carries I get, I’m going to try to make the most out of each and every one,” Mafah said following the defeat of Notre Dame. “I’m just glad that included a win for us.”

Mafah, dubbed “Mafah Man” by Running Backs Coach C.J. Spiller, recorded career highs in rushing attempts (179), rushing yards (965), rushing touchdowns (13), receptions (21) and receiving yards (108) in 506 snaps over 13 games (five starts) in 2023.


Mafah earned Most Valuable Player honors for the 2023 Gator Bowl after scoring career-high four rushing touchdowns on 11 carries against Kentucky. His four rushing touchdowns in the game broke the Clemson bowl record (three by Tracy Johnson vs. Penn State in the 1988 Citrus Bowl) and the Gator Bowl record (three set by many players), as he became the first Clemson player to rush for four touchdowns in a game since C.J. Spiller against Georgia Tech in the 2009 ACC Championship Game.

Three of Mafah’s Gator Bowl touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, making him the first Clemson player to score three touchdowns in any single quarter since DeAndre Hopkins against Duke in 2012. He became the first Clemson player with three touchdowns in a fourth quarter since at least 1996.


Mafah’s 13 rushing touchdowns in 2023 gave Clemson at least one player with double-digit rushing touchdowns in a ninth consecutive season. Clemson’s nine consecutive seasons with at least one player with double-digit rushing touchdowns enter 2024 as the longest active streak in the country.

Clemson’s only season in the Dabo Swinney era in which it did not produce a player with double-digit rushing touchdowns was in 2014.


Reminiscent of Clemson’s famous “Thunder and Lightning” duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller from 2006-08, Mafah and his close friend Will Shipley turned into one of the nation’s top running back tandems in 2023.

With Mafah at 965 yards and Shipley at 827 yards, Clemson was one of only six schools alongside Liberty, Louisville, San Jose State, UCLA and Virginia Tech to produce multiple 800-yard rushers in 2023. Of that group, Clemson was one of only four to accomplish the feat with multiple running backs rather than one running back and one quarterback.

The 2023 season marked the ninth time since 1948 that Clemson has produced multiple 750-yard rushers. It’s Clemson’s first such season since 2015, a year in which quarterback Deshaun Watson reached the mark. Prior to 2023, the last Clemson running back duo to accomplish the feat was Davis and Spiller, who reached the mark in both 2006 and 2007.



The departure of long-time trusted tight end Davis Allen after Allen’s selection by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2023 NFL Draft created an opportunity for Jake Briningstool in his junior season in 2023. The Nashville-area native who was the top-ranked tight end in the 2021 recruiting class that also included Brock Bowers took advantage with a career year that included a number of record setting performances.

Briningstool recorded career highs in receptions (50), receiving yards (498) and receiving touchdowns (five) in 2023 en route to All-ACC honors. He led a tight end group that ranked among Clemson’s most productive under Dabo Swinney.

Briningstool turned in his first signature performance of his career to date on Oct. 21, catching five passes for a school-tight-end-record 126 yards with two touchdowns against Miami (Fla.). A week later, he and Sage Ennis combined for 121 yards, the third-most prolific day by tight ends under Dabo Swinney.

Briningstool’s 126 yards against Miami were the most in a game by an ACC tight end this season and the most by an ACC tight end (per PFF designations) since Oct. 5, 2019, when Miami’s Brevin Jordan had 136 yards on two more catches against Virginia Tech.

In Clemson’s dramatic bowl win to close 2023, Briningstool gained 91 yards on nine receptions, tying the Clemson single-game school record for receptions by a tight end, matching John McMakin (vs. Florida State in 1970) and Brandon Ford (vs. LSU in 2012).His ninth reception of the game was his 50th of the season, tying the single-season school record for receptions by a tight end set by Dwayne Allen in 2011 (50).

By scoring his 10th career touchdown in a win against North Carolina on Nov. 18, Briningstool became the seventh tight end in school history to reach double-digit career touchdown receptions.

Briningstool entered his senior season in 2024 already ranked in the Top 7 in Clemson history in receptions and receiving yards among tight ends.



Since 2015, Clemson has produced a total of 29 All-ACC selections along the offensive line, including 11 first-team honors. Clemson’s 29 all-conference selections by offensive linemen are the second-most of any Power Five program, and its 11 first-team selections rank fifth in that span.

SportSource Analytics produces an Offensive Line Efficiency metric that takes into account tackle for loss percentages, sack percentages, percentages of rushes gaining 4+ yards and success on third-or-fourth-and-short. Clemson among the national leaders in that total metric since 2015.

Clemson was impacted by starting six different offensive line combinations in 2023 while both trying to find its best option at left tackle and managing the long-term losses of starting guards Walker Parks and Marcus Tate.


Clemson’s success in its 69-13 run since 2018 has been powered in part at the line of scrimmage, where Clemson holds a 265-132 edge over opponents in sacks in that time frame. Clemson’s +133 margin in sacks since 2018 is the highest differential in the country.



Head Coach Dabo Swinney has routinely sung the praises of the versatility of linebacker Barrett Carter, a 2023 preseason All-American.

“He’s one of the best football players in my 20 years at Clemson,” Swinney said. “He’s a pure football player. I mean, the guy can play anywhere. He could go play tailback, he could play corner, he can play safety, he can play Nickel/Sam, he can play Mike, he can play Will. He’s special… He’s so smart and he’s got unbelievable instincts for the game.”

Close observers of Clemson in 2022 quickly recognized Carter’s impact in his first year as a starter, but Carter served notice of his arrival to the country with a signature performance against Louisville last November. In that game, Carter recorded eight tackles (3.5 for loss), two sacks, an interception and a pass breakup, becoming the first player to record 3.5 or more tackles for loss, 2.0 or more sacks and an interception in a game between two Power Five teams since South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram against Auburn in 2011.

Carter finished 2022 credited by the coaching staff with 77 tackles (10.5 for loss), tied for third-most on the team, with 5.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in a unit-high 832 snaps over 13 games (all starts). His 832 snaps were the sixth-most by a Clemson linebacker on record.

Carter was one of only three players in the Power Five with at least 10 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, multiple interceptions and multiple forced fumbles in 2022.Before Carter and two others reached the marks in 2022, the last two Power Five players to reach Carter’s numbers in all four categories were both Butkus Award winners: Georgia’s Nakobe Dean (2021) and Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons (2019).

No. 0 has also been a hero in the community. He has volunteered his time for the Our Friend Christopher organization in the memory of his late former teammate Christopher Miles, who died of a brain tumor. He also routinely reads to local elementary schools and serves as a mentor to local youth and has aspirations of one day opening a training facility for young athletes.

“I remember I was that young kid that looked up to football players,” Carter said. “Now that I have the opportunity to give back, I have no choice but to do so. I just put myself in those shoes and remember when I was that kid.”


As conference and national acclaim began to accrue for Clemson’s young linebacking duo of Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. in late 2022, Dabo Swinney was quick to advise observers not to sleep on Wade Woodaz, now a true sophomore.

“He’s a baller,” Swinney said in September. “The kid is tough, physical, he can really run. He really understands the game at a high level. He played most of his [prep] career as a quarterback and as a safety, so he has a great understanding of the game. He plays really, really hard; he’s a great effort guy, he’s a great preparer and he loves it. He’s a fun guy to coach and a fun guy to watch play because he plays the way you want everybody to play.”

The first career start for versatile hybrid linebacker from Tampa actually came at safety in the 2022 ACC Championship Game. He then served as Clemson’s primary Sam linebacker in the 2022 Orange Bowl.

Woodaz opened the 2023 season with a takeaway in three straight games. He recovered a muffed punt in the season opener at Duke, his second straight season opener with an impact special teams play after blocking a punt in his collegiate debut a year earlier. In Clemson’s second game against Charleston Southern, he recorded his first career interception and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to help Clemson blow the game open.

A week later against Florida Atlantic, he returned another interception 59 yards. In doing so, he became the first Clemson linebacker with an interception in consecutive games since Isaiah Simmons accomplished the feat in the ACC Championship Game and Fiesta Bowl of his Butkus Award-winning 2019 campaign.

The only Clemson player since 1996 other than Woodaz to have a takeaway in each of the team’s first three games of a season was DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson’s current Senior Defensive Assistant, who posted a takeaway in each of Clemson’s first three games in 2009 en route to All-America honors that season.


While preseason praise and accolades for Clemson’s 2023 true freshmen defensive linemen were aimed primarily at preseason Freshman All-American Peter Woods, Woods’ best friend, defensive end T.J. Parker, emphatically announced his arrival last season.

Parker’s production behind the line of scrimmage in 2023 was the best by a first-year freshman in school history.

Parker tied for the national lead in tackles for loss among freshmen in 2023 with 12.5. Additionally, his 5.5 sacks ranked fourth nationally — and second in the Power Five — among freshmen.

In his fifth career game, Parker recorded 2.0 sacks against Syracuse, factoring into three different sacks with one full sack and two split sacks. He became only the fourth Clemson freshman under Dabo Swinney to record 2.0 sacks in a game. Two of the other three — Myles Murphy and Dexter Lawrence — were eventual first round picks in the NFL Draft.

Parker is a product of Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., a school that has become a Clemson hotbed in recent years. Parker became Clemson’s fourth signee (and fifth overall player including walk-on safety Caleb Nix) from Central since 2018, a pipeline that started with Justyn Ross in Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class.

Parker initially committed to Penn State but coveted a Clemson offer. He decommitted from the Nittany Lions in hopes of soliciting Clemson, and Clemson’s 2023 recruiting class immediately went to work.

“CV [Christopher Vizzina], Peter and a few other guys on the team, they hit me up with the eyes emoji on Instagram,” Parker said. “It was like, ‘You know what time it is.’ I texted Coach Ski [Clemson Defensive Ends Coach Lemanski Hall] the eyes emoji, the same thing they sent me, and from there we got in contact and a few days later they offered and I committed.”


Since the advent of the College Football Playoff in 2014, Clemson has routinely produced one of the nation’s elite defenses.

Clemson has ranked in the Top 30 in the country in total defense in all 10 seasons of the CFP era and has ranked among the Top 30 in scoring defense in each of those campaigns (including five Top 5 finishes in the category).

Clemson leads the nation in both Top 10 and Top 15 rankings in average yards allowed per game in that span.


Clemson has held opponents under 300 yards of offense 47 times since the start of the 2018 season, the most in the country.

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Clemson is 113-1 in its last 114 games when holding opponents under 23 points, a timeframe that dates to the 2010 season. In the College Football Playoff era, Clemson has held opponents to 22 or fewer points in 96 games, tied for the second-most in the nation. Clemson is 95-1 in those contests.


Clemson has held opponents to 2.0 or fewer yards per carry in 36 games in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014), second-most in the country. Clemson is 33-3 in those contests.


No program has given up fewer points per possession against FBS opponents since 2018, as Clemson’s mark of 1.07 points allowed per possession to FBS opponents since the start of the 2018 season leads the nation.


Clemson’s defense calls Death Valley home but might as well file for dual residency in opponents’ backfields.

Since 2012, Clemson leads the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. In September 2023, Clemson became the first program in the country to record 500 sacks since the start of the 2012 season.

Clemson has led the country (or shared the national lead) in tackles for loss five times since 2012. No other program has done so in more than two seasons.

Clemson has posted 70 multiple-sack games since 2018, the most in the FBS.


Clemson’s proclivity for sacks and tackles for loss combined with its nose for the ball has made it one of the nation’s annual leaders in “Defensive Mayhem” percentage, a metric kept by SportSource Analytics that tracks the percentage of plays in which a defense records a sack, tackle for loss, interception or fumble recovery.


Clemson has finished in the Top 25 in third down defense in 10 of its previous 11 seasons and ranks No. 1 in combined third down defense in that span.

SportSource Analytics tracks three-and-out percentages as well as “Hard Stops,” possessions in which a defense forces a turnover, creates a three-and-out or makes a fourth down stop. Clemson leads the nation in both since 2013.


Dabo Swinney was crystal clear both publicly and privately in the 2023 offseason in saying that Clemson needed to improve its pass defense from 2022.

“If we’re a better pass defense and a better pass offense then we’ll have a chance,” Swinney said at ACC Football Kickoff in July. “If we keep everything else the same… I mean we were one point away last year — one point — from being in the playoff. So we’ve just got to improve in some of the areas that we weren’t quite as good as we needed to be last year.”

Defensive Coordinator Wes Goodwin and his staff accepted the challenge and the results spoke for themselves in 2023.

Goodwin’s defense truly validated its improvement against some of the best passers in ACC history in November 2023. Clemson held North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye to a 44.4 percent completion percentage (16-of-36), the lowest of his career. Clemson also held Maye to a 96.8 pass efficiency rating, another career low.

Two weeks earlier, Clemson held Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman (formerly of Wake Forest) to the second-lowest passer rating of his career, trailing only his 2018 game against Clemson as a freshman. Clemson also held Georgia Tech’s Haynes King and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler to their career lows as starters as well in November.


Goodwin took over as Clemson’s defensive coordinator prior to the Tigers’ 2021 Cheez-It Bowl win against Iowa State. He entered 2024 having spent 28 games as Clemson’s defensive coordinator, and he has held opponents below their season averages for both yards and points in 24 of those contests.

Included below are comparisons of the yards and points surrendered by Clemson in Goodwin’s tenure as defensive playcaller. Games in which Goodwin’s unit did not hold opponents below their season average are italicized.


Punter Aidan Swanson returned for his sixth year at Clemson in 2024 following a breakout campaign in his second year as Clemson’s starting punter in 2023.

This season, he has improved his punting average by roughly a yard-and-a-half and nearly doubled the rate at which he was pinning opponents inside the 20.

Swanson’s 28 punts downed inside the 20 tied Bradley Pinion’s school record for punts inside the 20 in a single season (28 in 2014).

Swanson’s punting average of 43.67 yards ranked fifth in a season in Clemson history and was only the second average of 43+ yards by a Clemson punter since the turn of the century. He also recorded a 41.98-yard net punting average according to the NCAA formula for the metric, the second-best mark in school history behind Dale Hatcher’s 42.4 in 1984


vs. Florida State (2023): Swanson had a career day against Florida State on Sept. 23. His 53.2-yard average was a single-game high for his career, surpassing his 52.5-yard average against Syracuse in 2022. It was the best average by a Clemson punter with a minimum of three punts since Will Spiers’ 53.6-yard average against Syracuse in 2020.

Swanson’s four punts in that game included a 60-yarder in the first quarter and a 62-yarder in the third quarter. He joined Pittsburgh’s Daniel Sparks (2022), Wake Forest’s Dom Maggio (2019) and Miami’s Pat O’Donnell (2013) as the only ACC players since 2008 with multiple 60-yard punts in a single game, according to Stats Perform.

vs. Notre Dame (2023): Swanson placed a career-high five of his six punts inside the 20 againsat the Irish. It was the most punts placed inside the 20 by a Clemson punter since Will Spiers in the National Championship Game to end the 2019 season (five vs. LSU), earning Swanson ACC Specialist of the Week honors.

at South Carolina (2023): Swanson immediately tied his mark for punts inside the 20 in the regular season finale, dropping five punts inside the 20 in a nine-point win against South Carolina.


Like the Colquitt family punting at Tennessee, the Swinney family holding for placekicks at Clemson has become a dynasty of its own.

Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s oldest son, Will, arrived at Clemson in 2017 and immediately earned Clemson’s starting holder position on placekicks. He played five seasons and a record-tying 69 games at Clemson through 2021. In those five seasons, Clemson scored 565 points on placekicks, including field goals and PATs, and he held for 555 of those 565 points. The only 10 Clemson kicking points not held by Will in his career were instead held by his brother, Drew, who was Clemson’s starter at the position in 2022.

Will and Drew were succeeded by the youngest of the three Swinney boys, Clay, a redshirt sophomore who entered his second season as Clemson’s starting holder in 2024. Clay’s presence creates a plausible scenario in which every Clemson placekick in a full 10-year span from 2017-26 could be held by a Swinney.

Clemson’s last hold by any player outside the Swinney family was on the final point of Clemson’s 2016 national championship, as Seth Ryan, coincidentally also the son of a famous long-time coach (Rex Ryan), held the PAT following Hunter Renfrow’s game-winning touchdown with one second remaining.


Clemson has lost 17 games since 2015. Seven of Clemson’s 17 losses since 2015 have come against AP Top 5 teams.

The opponents to whom Clemson has lost since 2015 have a combined final record of 169-52, a winning percentage of .765. Clemson has not lost to a team that finished with a losing record since 2017 and has not lost to a team with a losing record at the time of the game since losing to 2-5 Boston College in 2010, Dabo Swinney’s second full season as head coach.


In Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s tenure, the Tigers have typically responded well in the face of recent adversity.

Clemson is 34-9 in games following a loss under Swinney, including season openers following a loss in the previous season finale.

Losses to Top 5 opponents Ohio State and Georgia across the 2020 and 2021 seasons ended a streak of 127 games since losing back-to-back contests, which had been the longest active streak in the nation and the longest in ACC history.

Clemson had not lost back-to-back games in a single season since November 2011, a streak that was snapped with losses to Miami and NC State in October 2023. It snapped a streak of 161 consecutive games played in which Clemson hadn’t lost back-to-back games in a single season, a Clemson record, and, at the time, the nation’s longest active streak.


Since 2011, the Tigers have played 49 games with a final margin of eight or fewer points, and Clemson’s .778 winning percentage in those one-possession contests is the best in the country in that time frame.

Clemson’s success in tight games comes despite Clemson also ranking among the nation’s best in blowout wins of 21+ points since 2018.


In 2023, Clemson ranked 15th in the nation in first downs per game (23.4) offensively and Clemson’s defense ranked third in the nation in first downs allowed per game (14.2).

Despite it coming in a four-loss campaign, Clemson’s advantage in average first downs ranked as Clemson’s fourth-highest average first down differential on record, trailing three 14-1 campaigns and ranking a full first-down-per-game ahead of its 15-0 season in 2018.


As of Jan. 30, Clemson has 33 players with at least one career start prior to the 2024 season. Those 33 players combine for 740 career game appearances and 340 career starts through 2023.


Clemson’s 89 400-yard games since 2015 are tied for the third-most in the nation. Clemson has reached 500 yards in 51 of those contests, tied for the fourth-most in the nation.


Clemson has fielded one of the nation’s most balanced offenses since 2018. In 2018, Clemson set a school record with 3,723 rushing yards. Just two years later, Clemson set a school record with 348.5 passing yards per game in 2020.

Clemson was perfect when exceeding both 200 rushing yards and 200 passing yards — 58-0 under Swinney and 108-0-1 all-time — until a defeat at Duke to open the 2023 season in which the Tigers reached the double-century mark in both categories. The defeat was also a statistical anomaly nationally, as from 2014 through the 2023 season opener, there had been 1,789 instances in which an FBS team had passed for 200-plus yards, rushed for 200-plus yards and given up 28 or fewer points in a single game. Teams who accomplished all three metrics were a combined 1748-41 (97.7 percent).

Clemson’s 28 games reaching both 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards since the start of the 2018 season are among the most in the country.

From 2018-23, Clemson was one of only three programs in the nation to both rush for at least 16,000 rushing yards and pass for at least 21,000 passing yards. Clemson was also the only program in the country to rush for 200+ rushing touchdowns (208) and throw 150+ passing touchdowns (164) in that span.


Clemson has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 78 of its 82 games since the start of the 2018 season. Clemson’s 78 games with a rushing touchdown in that span are the most in the nation. Clemson has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in 65 of those games, also the nation’s best.

Clemson’s four games without a rushing touchdown since 2018 have all come away from home in road or neutral-site contests against: Georgia (2021), Duke (2023), Miami (2023) and South Carolina (2023). Clemson has an active streak of 53 consecutive home games with a rushing touchdown at Death Valley; the last team to hold Clemson out of the Memorial Stadium end zones on the ground was Troy in the 2016 home opener.


Since 2015, Clemson has frequently won one of the hidden “games within the game” on each side of halftime. SportSource Analytics tracks the “Middle Eight,” the section of the game defined as the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Clemson has outscored opponents in that time window 71 times since 2015, posting a 69-2 record in those contests.


Clemson has ranked among the top four schools in the Power Five in average players per game in seven of the last eight seasons since 2016.

Clemson has led all Power Five conference teams in average players per game four times in the last seven years. Prior to the 2021 season in which Clemson’s playing rotations were limited by significant attrition, the last time Clemson did not lead Power Five teams in that category was in 2016, when Clemson finished second in that category.

Clemson has not only often led the nation in that category but has typically lapped the field. In 2019, Clemson played an average of 76.0 players per game, an average that far exceeded all Power Five programs by more than 11 players — a full unit — per game.

Clemson ranked fourth in the Power Five in average players per game in 2023 but ranked first in the Power Five in total players played.

The approach to creating functional depth and rewarding players ready to play has been a key philosophy for Head Coach Dabo Swinney, whose own collegiate playing career was hatched as a walk-on fighting for playing time in Alabama’s receiving corps.

“We’re fully committed to playing guys who deserve to play,” Swinney said. “You commit to a guy early in the season, and even if a guy has only played 10 percent of the snaps, when you get to game eight or nine, they’ve got some good experience.”


Clemson has played 20 or more freshmen in every year since the creation of the four-game redshirt rule prior to the 2018 season. Clemson’s top five seasons in terms of true freshmen played have all come in Clemson’s five most recent campaigns.

Six Clemson true freshmen — Jamal Anderson, Khalil Barnes, Tyler Brown, Shelton Lewis, T.J. Parker and Avieon Terrell — appeared in every game for Clemson in 2023. According to PFF data, Clemson’s freshmen (including both true freshmen and redshirt freshmen) played significantly more snaps in 2023 than any other freshman class in the Power Five.


Clemson emphasizes the importance of turnover margin every week on what it dubs “TANOGA Tuesday,” standing for “TakeAways, NO GiveAways.”

Here is a breakdown of Clemson’s turnover history in games coached by Dabo Swinney:

Clemson tied for the national lead in takeaways in 2023, and the Tigers turned a handful of those takeaways into a school-record-tying five defensive touchdowns and a school-record-tying four pick-sixes, both of which matched Clemson’s marks from 1990.

Clemson is the nation’s cumulative leader in takeaways since 2018.