Think about this for a second.
What’s different about the 2017 Clemson football team at this time of the year compared to the 2016 Alabama team?
The difference? Last year’s defending national champions were being hyped as the preseason No. 1 team. This year’s defending national champions are being hyped as a preseason top 10.
Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd, especially when you look back at what Alabama had coming back last season and what the Tigers return this year?
The Crimson Tide had to replace their starting quarterback, their starting running back and a couple of skill players on the outside. However, Alabama returned basically all of its offensive line and mostly its entire defense from a unit that finished second in the country in 2015.
This year’s Tigers have to replace their starting quarterback, their starting running back and a couple of skill players on the outside. However, Clemson will return basically all of its offensive line and mostly its entire defense from a unit that finished eighth in the country in 2016.
So what is different? Why aren’t the defending national champions going to come into the season as the perceived preseason No. 1 ranked team?
I think it’s because they are not named Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma or even Florida State. Despite being one of the best teams in the country the last six years Clemson still does not get the same kind of respect those kinds of programs get, though the Tigers have beaten all four of them.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with starting the season in the top 5 or top 10. That does prove the Tigers are getting some kind of level of respect from the national media. But Dabo Swinney’s program is still not getting the same kind of respect some of the other big-name teams get.
But that is okay. That’s just the way Swinney likes it. He likes playing the disrespect card. He likes the fact the majority of the media this year will pick the Seminoles to win the ACC instead of his Tigers, though Clemson has whipped FSU at the line of scrimmage the last two years and again has the better offensive and defensive lines coming back this year.
Clemson will take its top 10 ranking to start the season and will say all the right things. Like, “It does matter where you start, but how you finish.” However, privately, they’ll be using it as motivation. They will perceive themselves as the team that still is hunting for respect as opposed to the team who has it.
In the end, they’ll be doing what they have been doing the last couple of years. They’ll try to dethrone Alabama from its seat at the top of the mountain, even though they currently own that seat. That does not make sense when you think about it, does it?