This year, the Clemson Tigers have played with fire. The thing with fire is that it is hot. And when things are hot, they burn you. Last week, an unranked Pittsburgh team came into Death Valley and pulled off the first upset of the night for highly ranked teams. Clemson saw how fire can burn.
Building a Program
Clemson has been building a program since Tommy Bowden was coaching. Before Bowden, the football team was coached by another Tommy. This is not a Tommy that Clemson fans speak of. He did not exist. It was just a dream.
Kidding. It wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare. Tommy West is his name. And while he was the coach at Clemson, the program sunk into a state of depression. But when Tommy Bowden was brought on, new life was breathed into the Tigers. There were recruits who were wanting to play for the Tigers. There were facility upgrades to grab those recruits. Bowden was what the school needed to take the Tigers back to a level of national prestige. For whatever reason, though, Bowden could never really get it done at Clemson. He was much better than his predecessor, but was not meant to take the Tigers back to where they were under Danny Ford.
Then, of course, Dabo Swinney was promoted to the interim head coach in the middle of the 2008 season and was posthumously named the head coach at season’s end.
Where Are We Now
This history lesson is to give you a reminder of where Clemson has been and where they are now. Clemson just played for a National Championship as the 1 seed in January. Clemson battled in 2015 and finished the season successfully. If the only blemish on a team’s record is a loss in the national championship, then that was an outstanding year. Then again, if there were no blemishes, it would have been a perfect year.
2016 has had a strange feel. Clemson opened up and looked to struggle against an Auburn team that surprisingly turned out to be pretty good. Then the Tigers almost lost to several teams that they should not have. They say that it is better to be lucky than good. But luck runs out. And if you aren’t good, you will be exposed. Clemson is very good. But they have played some games that will make you think otherwise. The NC State game was basically a loss but technically a win. Where did Troy come from? And now look at what happened against Pitt.
Clemson fans have been spoiled. We have had some great players come through the program. Names like CJ Spiller, Sammy Watkins, Nuk Hopkins, Shaq Lawson, Vic Beasley all come to mind. Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson is the quarterback of this team for the next few months. He will be drafted this April.
This game against Pittsburgh was surprising. Pittsburgh was not ranked. Clemson was highly ranked. The Panthers did not want it to stay that way.
The game was probably one where many Clemson fans (myself included) looked at it and said this game may be closer than the 21 point spread indicated, but there is no way that Pittsburgh could hope to win. The talent level alone would be enough for Clemson to easily beat Pitt.
But James Conner was not prepared to lie down and take a loss. In fact, he was clearly determined to punish the defense. As he did so with ease. With 20 carries and 132 yards, that would be a good day for any running back. What that also does is sets up a competent quarterback to have a great day through the air. Nathan Peterman had 308 yards and 5 touchdowns. They absolutely trashed one of the best defenses in the country.
And of course, there were penalties that were obviously terrible calls. There was a holding call on play where the defensive back never even touched the Pitt receiver. And let’s not forget when Ben Boulware was literally flagged for tackling a dude (and no, it wasn’t even a suplex).
The Bright Side
Clemson was ranked #4 in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings. These rankings are coming in the wake of a weekend where the second, third and fourth ranked teams fell. If Clemson wins out (and they really should) they will be in the playoffs. With Wake Forest and South Carolina, there should be no way that Clemson drops one. Then the ACC Championship game against (probably) Virginia Tech should be another easy game. Of course, with the way this season has gone, which team is actually a cake walk for the Tigers? (Oh, sorry Syracuse).
Also, Clemson fans have heard chatter across the internet and the radio that Louisville should be ranked ahead of Clemson. The argument is that both teams have one loss and Louisville’s loss is better than Clemson’s loss. If the argument stops there, then sure, it makes sense. But, when you fail to remember that Louisville’s loss came AGAINST Clemson, then the argument falls apart. Homers and haters abound in this beautiful game of College Football.
From one Clemson homer to another, relax. Clemson is going to be fine.