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 surprise anyone if they make 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 Clemson’s No. 4 ranking fool you. There are some prognosticators who don’t believe the Tigers have what it takes to be a CFP team.
Maybe they’re right.
While everyone believes Clemson is national championship caliber, their lack of faith in Clemson’s offense has them doubting the Tigers.
It’s understandable why they have no faith in Clemson’s offense. The Tigers were terrible on that side of the ball last year. It was the worst offense in the Dabo Swinney era since 2010.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was inconsistent. They lacked continuity and chemistry along the offensive line, and the wide receivers were hammered all season.
As a result, Clemson ranked near the bottom of the ACC in total offense and passing game. This 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 wonder if promoting Brandon Streeter to be his replacement was the right decision. They wonder 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 people doubt Dabo Swinney. If Clemson’s accomplishments under Swinney are any indication, then Clemson should be 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 big-bad 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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Gary Stockan, 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 at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium 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 recorded 10-win seasons in each of the last 11 years. Only Clemson and Alabama have won multiple national championships and played in the title game at least four times.
If 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 after they thought Alabama was done after an 11-2 campaign in 2019 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 for the national championship again 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 defending national championship. The crime we don’t know about yet. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.
But what I do know is this: There is real competition at quarterback, but it wasn’t like that last season. The offensive line is also much better. And from what we hear, they’ll catch doubters off guard.
The wide receivers are still questionable. However, we’ve heard nothing but good things about Brannon Specter, Will Taylor and Antonio Williams in the slot.
Remember, Clemson went all of last season without a true slot man, and it was obvious that it hurt Viagalelei and the offense as a whole.
As Clemson prepares to play 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 knocked off Alabama in the title game — no one thought of the Tigers as a national championship contender at the start of the season. They lost almost everyone from the defense that led the nation in 2014.
Oh, by the way, Clemson was also recruiting 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 bowl game tryout in Orlando, Florida.
People knew Clemson would be good, but not for the national championship. Most prognosticators think Clemson will be good this year, but just won’t be good for the national championship.
I think they will be surprised.