By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Even if Clemson runs the table it may remain in a passenger’s seat. Nine undefeated teams higher in the BCS ratings hold firmer grips on Destiny’s steering wheel.
That’s a tough reality to face coming off a bye week with a 5-1 record and a respectable spot in the polls.
In other seasons Virginia Tech, would offer a potential launching pad for an ambitious team. A year ago, Clemson jumped from 13th to 8th in the AP poll after winning at Virginia Tech. The Hokies bear modest resemblance to that team or any of the last eight seasons, all winners of 10 games including four ACC Championships.
And that’s the root of the issue. Dabo Swinney continues to sell hope based on his contention the natural order will prevail. That the SEC will eat its young, Oregon will trip over its Nike hubris and Notre Dame can’t continue to receive divine intervention. Ordinarily it might be enough, but the ACC has fallen into such disfavor that now this week the league was ranked behind the Big West among BCS conferences.
Florida State and Clemson were the only ACC teams in the season’s first BCS rating, buoyed only by the polls. Five computer ratings completely ignored Florida State. Five crapped out on Clemson despite that win over Auburn to start the season.
An average Virginia Tech team – and statistically that’s precisely what Clemson faces this week – doesn’t help the league at 4-3. Miami’s 4-3 looks better. Way better than Duke at 5-2. North Carolina and N.C. State have had moments of clarity. Maryland is better defensively but Temple might be the best of its four wins. And Georgia Tech may still be a chigger under the skin of BYU or UNC or Georgia.
Computers tend to favor SEC schools. Florida was ranked No. 1 or 2 by five of the six computers, and it remains to be seen if it’s the best team in its half of the conference. Computers love Notre Dame, too, but until TV networks aren’t willing to drop huge checks in the Irish collection plate, that’s going to continue as a sticking point.
Of course, some believe the game is more interesting when Notre Dame is relevant, but that’s another discussion.
None of that is relevant, Swinney said Tuesday. “All we got to do is take care of business. If we take care of business, we’ve got a chance to have a special season,” he said. “If we win we’re in great shape. If we don’t we won’t be. It’s really that simple. We control our own destiny from that standpoint.”
Clemson spent the extended down time since Georgia Tech evaluating itself, turning over every rock in search of bugs that bite. In August, the biggest concern was the offensive line. Today that seems like much ado about nothing.
Nobody expected the defense to be as porous. Though he wouldn’t put it on one player or one position, Brent Venables said there were areas that needed further work, “consistency” was his word which translates to push rush and a reassurance Clemson can stop the run.
Virginia Tech should be a fine test for both, considering Logan Thomas was the East Coast favorite to compete for the Heisman until the rest of the country recognized what Clemson knew after the ACC Championship Game.
Venables did say he would be surprised if the defense was not improved during the second half, which could make the journey the next five weeks a bit easier.
Still, Swinney said, “a lot would have to happen,” for Clemson to be relevant in the national picture this season.
“Bottom line is, if you take care of business that thing changes drastically,” he said. “We’ve got to control what we can control. The rest of it doesn’t matter.”
That’s what he’s selling. Who’s buying it?