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Swinney: `We have a championship schedule’

July 23, 2011

SUNSET, SC – Some around the country believe Clemson’s 2011 football schedule is one of the toughest in the nation. With games against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech in consecutive weeks beginning on Sept. 17, Clemson’s overall schedule has been ranked toughest in the nation based on the NCAA’s formula. The NCAA bases its toughest schedule on the 2011 opponent’s winning percentage in 2010.

Clemson’s 2011 opponents had a record of 104-54 in 2010, a winning percentage of 65.8. The list was published in Phil Steele’s College Football Preview for 2011.

“First of all, I didn’t put that schedule together so let’s make sure that is clear,” said Swinney with at his annual media golf outing on July 19 at The Reserve at Lake Keowee. “It is what it is. We don’t get that choice. We just have to line up and play the games.

“As I told the team, `Hey guys, we have a championship schedule. You want to win a championship, well we have a schedule for you. This one can get it done for you.

“There are a lot of teams out there that can win all of their games, but they cannot win a national championship because they do not have the type of schedule that you must have to do that. But we don’t have that problem, so let’s embrace it.”

Clemson’s schedule will kick off on Sept. 3 against Troy. The Trojans are no slouch, as they have won the Sun Belt Conference five years running.

“I know Troy. I have known (head coach) Larry Blakeney for a long time. They have a program that wins eight, nine, 10 (games) every year. They are going for their sixth conference championship in a row. Those guys know how to win.

“They have played everywhere. LSU, Florida State, they will go anywhere. So we have a tough, tough challenge with Troy.”

The Tigers have a tough challenge pretty much every week.

In the first five weeks of the season, the Tigers will have played the Sun Belt Champion, the Southern Conference Champion (Wofford), the SEC and National Champion (Auburn), the ACC Atlantic Division Champion (Florida State) and the ACC Champion (Virginia Tech).

“That was all last year,” Swinney said. “You respect that, but it is all about what we do this year.

Swinney admits it is a very challenging schedule, and it will challenge the Tigers even more considering they will play anywhere from 20 to 30 freshmen or redshirt freshmen this fall.

“If you were going to make the schedule yourself, you probably would have shuffled things a little bit differently,” he said. “So they made it tough on us, but let’s embrace it. There isn’t a dang-gum thing we can do about it.”

After those first five games, Clemson finishes the year with four of the last seven games on the road, including two straight – at NC State and at South Carolina – to close the season.

“Let’s worry about things we can control, and that is how we practice and how we prepare, and let’s go play. May the best man win,” Swinney said.

Nation’s Toughest Schedules(based on 2011 opponent’s winning percentage in 2010)
Rank School Wins Losses Win %
1. Clemson 104 54 65.80
2. Baylor 96 56 63.20
3. Kansas 97 57 63.00
4. Washington 96 57 62.70
5. LSU 95 58 62.10
6. Notre Dame 95 59 61.70
6. Iowa State 95 59 61.70
8. Miami (FL) 95 60 61.30
9. Mississippi 93 60 60.80
10. UNLV 92 60 60.50
Source: Phil Steele Preseason Magazine