College football is no stranger to trash talk; even Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney joined in on the fun. He was recently asked about a loss that Georgia Tec — a team Clemson beat 52-14 in Week 1 — had against the Citadel. Swinney, who wanted to prop up the ACC against the proud SEC teams, threw subtlety out the window when speaking sarcastically about his opponents. Here’s what he had to say.
Dabo Swinney’s jab
According to 247 Sports, the Clemson coach said, “That’s college football… I mean heck, The Citadel was probably Alabama’s toughest game last year until Georgia.” Ouch. This jab did not come out of left field, and it works on many levels.
On one hand, it can be viewed as a dig at the easy schedule the Crimson Tide had last year. Throwing out the fact that the Crimson Tide only played closely with The Citadel for one 10-10 half before winning 50-17, the jab may be aimed at the fact that Alabama’s Nick Saban spent the entire offseason making excuses and playing down Clemson’s championship win.
Saban and his players have a history of making excuses for any loss. Despite being one of the most storied college football programs, losses like the one they took at Clemson’s expense seem to rattle the program to the point where Saban cannot even give a tiny bit of credit to the victor. Swinney, no doubt, heard this and likely directed his jab in Alabama’s direction.
Swinney’s trash talk continues
Swinney continued by saying, “The Citadel beat South Carolina somewhere here in the not-too-long-ago (past). That’s not a shocker. Georgia State went over and beat Tennessee. I mean that’s college football.” Again, these are calculated attacks on the SEC as a whole.
While the Alabama attack may have had a little more mustard on it due to the recent past, these attacks are meant to talk down to the SEC as a conference and establish Clemson’s ACC as the superior conference. Swinney isn’t wrong in his claims, but he’s being purposely obtuse for comedic effect in his analysis.
It is true that Citadel beat South Carolina, but the loss occurred back in 2015. For the narrative of what Swinney was trying to say, it works. The loss, according to 247 Sports, came on the heels of Steve Spurrier’s exit. Losing to a historically weak team like The Citadel may have cost South Carolina’s interim coach, Shawn Elliott, a shot at the full-time gig.
By invoking Georgia State’s Week 1 victory over Tennessee, Swinney is implying the obvious. Tennessee, an SEC team, lost to a team that Clemson beat handily. While the claim and reasoning are not necessarily accurate, as Football Scoop points out, the implication is that this is the competition the top teams play against, while Clemson faces truly hard opponents.
Dabo Swinney’s final burn
The Clemson coach ended his comment by stating, “Anything can happen, especially early, especially early in the season. Because nobody knows anything about anybody at this point.” This is the cherry on top of Swinney’s pettiness.
After not-so-subtly bringing down the SEC, he washes his hands of any responsibility for the narrative. Swinney drives listeners one place, then quickly states that all of the things he mentioned before could only be chalked up to the unpredictable nature of the game.
Swinney likely was not serious as he threw these teams under the bus. More than likely, he was just having fun with the media. His quotes, however, showed a fascinating portrait of the ways a coach can spin the news to his liking.