I know it’s en vogue for some failed former reality show stars who are now pretending to analyze sports to talk about Clemson “pulling a Clemson”. I get why analysts too lazy to examine even a shred of evidence available from the recent past would use the term “Clemsoning” to represent a team losing a game it shouldn’t.
But ignorance and laziness are not acceptable when we do have facts available to us that would combat conventional wisdom concerning this Tiger football program under Dabo Swinney. So let’s look at some facts.
Last week, two teams lost games they were favored to win. None of them were Clemson.
So far this season, in four weeks worth of action, 34 teams who were favored to win have lost games. None of them were Clemson.
In 2012, the teams in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll combined for 24 losses as lined favorites. Only one of these 24 came courtesy of Clemson. In addition, seven teams lost multiple games as Vegas favorites. Once again, that category does not include Clemson.
I’ve got some more figures on this issue I’m saving for tomorrow, so I’ll leave it there for now. But the point is simple: Singling Clemson out as the national poster child for emotional letdowns to weaker opponents is just a silly exercise at this point.
Yet here we have ESPN’s Jesse Palmer—a purported college football expert—staring facts right in the face and ignoring them, preferring instead to blast the Tigers again for things that used to happen but don’t anymore. To make matters worse, he did it on a primetime mid-week broadcast Clemson was winning comfortably while enduring a subpar performance, flanked by colleagues who did everything but kick him out of the booth so the adults could have a conversation.
Palmer made a ton of enemies during the Tigers’ victory over N.C. State last week, and he did it because he continued to spout old information no longer relevant in the grand scheme of things. He used the tired cliché that proves his ignorance as the two educated gentlemen in the room—Rece Davis and David Pollack—tried to have an intelligent discussion.
If Palmer saw the numbers I just cited, would he have taken such a hard-line stance against Clemson going undefeated, simply because the 2004 team lost to Duke and the 2008 team lost to Wake Forest? If he truly cared about making a logical argument, would he have zipped right past 2012—which Pollack cited as proof of Clemson’s breaking free from the shackles of history—and instead talked at length about the 2011 team who lost games for reasons that aren’t hard to understand?
When Pollack chastised Palmer about skipping the most recent season, it sounded like he couldn’t fathom the former Bachelor taking such a stance on the issue. When he noted the ranked teams from Palmer’s beloved Southeastern Conference the Tigers have beaten recently, Pollack must have expected Palmer to back down.
Instead, ESPN’s version of the “third-wheel” showed a lack of intelligence akin to the most rabid conference hawk on talk radio who tries to argue that a 14-team league has the best 14 teams in the country. True to form, Palmer didn’t let the facts or the results get in the way of a good theory.
If we lived in Palmer’s universe, the Wolfpack fans would have stormed the field on Thursday night, celebrating an upset victory. In his world, Clemson has a better chance to beat Florida State and South Carolina than Wake Forest and Boston College.
But Clemson beat N.C. State by two scores. The Tigers are now 16-1 as a double-digit favorite in Swinney’s full-time tenure.
Don’t tell Jesse Palmer. Apparently he wants to keep getting it wrong.