CLEMSON, SC – Clemson has had a lot of success over the past 12 seasons.
With that said, it’s easy to say that the Tigers won’t catch anyone by surprise if they make it to the College Football Playoff for the seventh time in eight years.
Clemson enters the 2022 football season ranked fourth in the Associated Press preseason poll, which at least tells us some think the Tigers may have what it takes to return to the CFP.
However, don’t let the ranking no. 4 of Clemson to cheat you. There are some prognosticators out there who don’t believe the Tigers have what it takes to be a CFP team.
Maybe they are right.
Although everyone believes Clemson has a national championship-caliber defense, it’s their lack of confidence in Clemson’s offense that makes them doubt the Tigers.
It’s understandable why they don’t trust Clemson’s offense. Last year, the Tigers were terrible on that side of the ball. It was the worst offense in the Dabo Swinney era since 2010.
Center back DJ Uiagalelei was inconsistent. They lacked continuity and chemistry along the offensive line and the wide receivers were noisy all season.
As a result, Clemson ranked at the bottom of the ACC in total offense and passing yards per game. That’s after the Tigers averaged 40-plus points and 500-plus yards in each of the previous three seasons.
It doesn’t help that the Tigers lost longtime offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, and some question whether promoting Brandon Streeter as his replacement was the right call. They ask the same thing about Wes Goodwin on the defensive end after he was promoted to replace longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
But despite all that, I wonder why so many are doubting Dabo Swinney. If Clemson’s record under Swinney is any indication, then Clemson should be right back on top this year.
If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Clemson, right?
Clemson is still the only team to beat badass Alabama twice on the big stage in the Nick Saban era, and the Tigers did it both times in the national championship game.
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Clemson must repeat history, floods Atlanta with $2 bills
Gary Stokan, CEO and President of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, made it clear last week that it was not his organization’s idea to close the upper deck of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta when No. 4 Clemson plays Georgia Tech on Labor Day night as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Since 2015, no one has won more games outside of Alabama than Clemson. Only Alabama and Clemson have posted 10-win seasons in each of the past 11 years. Only Clemson and Alabama have won multiple national championships and played in the title game at least four times.
If any two schools deserve the benefit of the doubt it’s Alabama and Clemson.
You’d think some of them would have learned their lesson in 2020, as they thought Alabama was done after an 11-2 campaign in 2019, one that saw the Crimson Tide miss the CFP for the first time.
But what happened in 2020? Alabama won another national championship. They then played again for the national championship in 2021.
I’m not saying Clemson will win the national championship this year, but I’m not discrediting the possibility either.
As I wrote earlier, Clemson has a national championship caliber defense. The work, we don’t know yet. Maybe yes maybe no.
But what I do know is this: There is real competition at quarterback, which wasn’t the case last season. The offensive line is also much better. And from what we’re hearing, they’ll catch those doubters by surprise.
The wide receivers are still a question mark. However, we’ve heard nothing but good things about Brannon Spector, Will Taylor and Antonio Williams in the slot.
Remember, Clemson went all of last season without a true starter and it clearly hurt Uiagalelei and the offense as a whole.
As Clemson plays Georgia Tech on Labor Day night in Atlanta, all of these doubts remind me of the 2015 season. The difference is that all the question marks this time are on the offensive side of the ball.
In 2015 — when Clemson went undefeated in the regular season and nearly beat Alabama in the title game — no one considered the Tigers a national championship contender at the start of the season. They lost almost everyone from a defense that led the nation in 2014.
Oh, by the way, Clemson was also breaking in two new coordinators — Elliott and Jeff Scott — on the offensive side of the ball in 2015, plus Streeter was the new quarterbacks coach. Like this year’s coaching staff, they also had a tryout at a bowl game in Orlando, Fla.
People knew Clemson would be good, but not national championship good. Most prognosticators think Clemson will be good this year, but not national championship good.
I think they will be in for a surprise.