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Eric Boynton | Spartanburg Herald-Journal | November 16, 2016

Clemson's Swinney maintains optimism despite loss

  Clemson lost to Pitt 43-42 but still remains right in the College Football Playoff picture.

CLEMSON -- A master of positive thinking, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney got a tad bit philosophical Tuesday while ruminating about his program's first regular-season loss in two years.

"Prosperity is a terrible teacher," Swinney said, repeating a line he's used before. "Sometimes you need a little pain along the way, and a little failure is part of getting better. There was a sense of urgency (when the team reconvened Monday) where there was a hard edge to it. And I like that.

"We're disappointed, but eager and ready to get back to work and challenge each other. At the end of the day it's how you respond and that's what life is about. That's what determines the outcome to anything. It's really simple and not very complicated. How we respond will determine the outcome Saturday night."

That's when Clemson travels for a fifth nighttime road game this season at Wake Forest, having blown the cushion it had created in terms of trying to not only win a second consecutive ACC championship (a win clinches the ACC Atlantic), but staying in the national title hunt. Now at 9-1, there is no margin for error left and every game is do-or-die for what they hope to accomplish.

The Tigers have set the bar high in recent seasons, inching it up after each milestone, culminating with last season's second-ever appearance in the national championship game. This year, star quarterback Deshaun Watson's last with the program, anything less than another berth in the four-team playoff would be considered by many a major disappointment.

Thanks to several upsets of top-10 teams last week, the Tigers remained in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday night at No. 4, down from second and trailing Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan.

"It's hard to go undefeated," Swinney said. "Look at Alabama last year. We both walked off the field 14-1. When they dropped the confetti on the Tide, nobody was over there going, 'yeah but you lost to Ole Miss.' They were handing them the trophy."

Senior tight end Jordan Leggett said the feeling is still strong the team will end up ranked in the CFP final four, catching a bit of a break with Nos. 3 and 4 Michigan and Washington each joining the Tigers in defeat Saturday. Leggett admitted the pressure increased after each win last year, when the team started 14-0 (and remained on top of each CFP ranking) before losing the last. He was seeking a silver lining to Saturday's loss to 20-point underdog Pittsburgh.

Last season "People were expecting us to win every game, and now, we're not invincible," Leggett said. "But I think that's just going to help us in the long run. Having that loss on our belt motivates us. That feeling in the locker room was terrible Saturday and nobody wants to feel that again. I feel the loss puts a chip on our shoulder rest of the year."

RELATED: Social media reactions to Pitt's upset over Clemson

So what did Swinney feel about one of his star veterans believing the first regular-season loss in 24 games alleviates at least some of the pressure the team has been under during a weekly basis.

"I think that's a sexy answer after you get beat," Swinney said. "You've got to come up with something that sounds good, I guess. I spent 13 years at Alabama and been here 14 years, so I don't know anything other than we're supposed to win. There's pressure to win every week and I like that kind of pressure. I love that, I embrace that. Always have."

Swinney went on to add feeling the stress as a front-runner, as the regular favorite, has always given him far less anxiety than teams early in his Clemson tenure when the program's star power was far less than what it is now.

"To me there's more pressure when you're really not expected to win, when you're really not good enough and need this or that to happen. To me that ain't the kind of pressure I like. I like the pressure of knowing you've got a good team and are expected to win." ___

This article was written by Eric Boynton from Spartanburg Herald-Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.