CLEMSON -- The more the conference chips stack in Clemson's favor, the more coach Tommy Bowden declines to acknowledge his hand.
The Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) climbed two spots to No. 13 in the AP poll Sunday after a thorough 42-20 road dismantling of North Carolina State.
More importantly, both of their conference victories have come against fellow Atlantic Division opponents, a tiebreaker trump card for a program needing to at least display progress toward its first ACC title since 1991.
Bowden refused to put Clemson anywhere near the driver's seat, though, regardless of how impressive his team has looked in comparison to the rest of the league.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
"We've contended the last two years," Bowden said. "All it got me was a bunch of headaches. ... Contending is really not that good."
But the Tigers might be, especially considering few can match the fear factor tagged to standout tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller.
Clemson is one of two remaining unbeatens in the division and is the second-highest ranked ACC team behind the other one, No. 12 Boston College, which it faces at home Nov. 17 in the final conference game.
The goal, of course, is to ensure that game is still relevant in two months. So after seeing how emotional highs last season ultimately were leveled out by destructive emotional lows, Bowden has sought to temper any premature excitement about the Tigers' prospects this year.
Bowden said he was pleased with the level-headed demeanor players displayed after their dominant performance. But that might not make Bowden's job any easier this week.
Although Georgia Tech's stature has been diminished by consecutive ACC losses to Boston College and Virginia, there would figure to be an extra dimension of excitement for next Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game in Atlanta.
Davis has hardly contained his anticipation for his first true homecoming game; the junior was limited to one carry in 2005 because of a broken wrist.
Clemson has not won ACC road games in back-to-back weeks the last four years.
Plus with its own revenge game looming the following week against No. 17 Virginia Tech, the Tigers have to guard against the same sentiment from the Yellow Jackets (2-2, 0-2), who suffered an embarrassing 31-7 whipping last year when Clemson and Georgia Tech were ranked Nos. 12 and 13, respectively.
If you base it on the fact they lost last year, they will (be motivated)," Bowden said. "But I think they're going to be like us, looking to play better than they have the last couple of weeks."
Bowden said Clemson has room for improvement in eliminating stretches of mental lapses, such as when N.C. State discombobulated its defense with up-tempo play that led to a second-quarter touchdown.
• UNDER REVIEW: Bowden said he will ask the ACC to review the penalty call on Davis that negated Jacoby Ford's 62-yard touchdown run on a second-quarter reverse.
Davis flew out of nowhere to pancake safety Miguel Scott on the other side of the field as Ford strode into the end zone.
Davis said an official told him he was flagged because the hit was away from the play, and Bowden later told him "he'd take that one."
"I've got to be careful what I say," Bowden said. "Needless to say, I'll be sending that one in. I didn't think you could get a penalty for a vicious hit. I thought it was a vicious game."