No. 6 Clemson

Does the coach make the program? Or does the program make the coach?

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It’s a combination of both. Clemson is a program that has the ingredients necessary to be successful. But there are 15 or 20 schools that have Clemson-like potential. Maybe more.

To get it done, to go toe-to-toe with Alabama and split the last two national championship games, that’s pretty heady stuff that requires a special coach.

That makes Dabo Swinney pretty special. Clemson acknowledged that on Friday, when Swinney agreed to a new eight-year, $54 million contract.

Swinney is 60-9 the last five seasons, including a pair of 14-1 marks the last two years. The Tigers got to the mountaintop last January, beating Alabama for the national championship 35-31 after trailing 24-14 going into the fourth quarter.

And they lost to the Crimson Tide in the 2015 championship in a 45-40 shootout.

And so, I’ll put my faith in Swinney to keep Clemson in the hunt for a lot of the marbles, if not all of them.

A little Dabo’ll do ‘ya.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Despite the loss of Deshaun Watson, who might be the best player who ever played at Clemson, Swinney and his staff have shown they have the right stuff to field another top-notch team.

They’ll need it. Florida State is at the top of its game, and deserves to be the favorite in the ACC division where the defending national champs reside. And Louisville, which features Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at QB, also is ready to take a run at the ACC Atlantic, which is in the discussion for nation’s best division.

I admit it. I’ve never been a huge fan of ACC football. All other things being equal, I can think of at least three conferences (and maybe four) that I’d follow ahead of the ACC in football.

But all other things are not equal these days. The ACC is setting the bar awfully high. And Swinney is one of the big reasons for that[/membership]