CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is on high alert for his team's game against Charlotte, even with the No. 1-ranked Tigers taking on a 49ers program that's only played Division I football since 2013.
Swinney believes Charlotte (2-1) of Conference USA has the pieces on offense and defense to "embarrass" Clemson if his players don't take their preparation seriously. The coach wants them focused on Charlotte, paying attention to things like betting lines that have the Tigers a nearly six-touchdown favorite to win their 19th consecutive game Saturday night.
"This a team that could embarrass us if we do not have a great week of preparation," Swinney said.
And he's got reasons to back that up. He points to Charlotte 41 points in a loss at Appalachian State as evidence of the explosive. He brings up that Charlotte is fifth nationally with 13 sacks (tied with Boise State, Maryland and Michigan State) and disruptive on defense. Throw in Clemson's inconsistent play on offense and defense, he adds, and the mix is right for a trap-game result.
Count on the Tigers being wary.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been up and down this season, but still is among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in passing yards and touchdowns. Clemson's other Heisman Trophy contender entering the season in tailback Travis Etienne has had a pair of sub-par games in wins over Texas A&M and Syracuse the past two weeks, but appears ready for a breakout performance. And Clemson's group of receivers in Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers have accounted for four touchdowns and nearly 40 percent of the team's 1,633 total yards.
Charlotte coach Will Healy , in his first season, understands the challenge his team faces at Death Valley. He also knows the exposure of playing the nation's top-ranked team is invaluable in building the program.
"People are going to be talking about Charlotte football and that helps us a lot," said Healy, in his first season. "Now it's up to us to go out there and put a great brand of football on the field and to be competitive in the football game."
Some other things to watch when No. 1 Clemson faces Charlotte on Saturday night.
Along with putting their program-record 18-game win streak on the line, the Tigers have a couple of other runs they're looking to keep intact against Charlotte. Clemson has won 20 straight non-conference games at home and 21 consecutive non-conference games overall. The Tigers have also won 32 straight games on Saturdays, the longest active streak in the country.
CUT THAT OUT
Swinney said that Charlotte's Healy texted him this week that his 4-year-old son can't stop watching Clemson's hype videos on the internet.
The Clemson sophomore quarterback understands he has not played crisply throughout some of the season's three games. But he believes he's making steady improvement as long as the Tigers keeping winning, that's the most important concern. Lawrence has thrown for 831 yards and five TDs. He also has five interceptions, already surpassing the four he had during the national championship season.
POWER FIVE GAMES
Charlotte is 0-4 all-time against Power Five conference teams since reviving football in time for the 2013 season. The 49ers have an ambitious schedule the next couple of seasons, facing Duke and Tennessee in 2020, the Blue Devils and Illinois in 2021 and Maryland and South Carolina in 2022.
Clemson linebacker James Skalski tries to get as much of the defensive game plan as possible. Tigers coordinator Brent Venables makes that difficult. Venables often has 20 or more points on the board for his players take down, then starts changing things on the fly. "He's literally a mastermind at what he's doing," Skalski said.