Bye weeks are perfect for rest and reflection. Players and coaches use the time to self-scout and regroup for a couple of days before the season gets back in gear.
Fans can use bye weeks from time to time as well. Journalists certainly can benefit from them—I’ve had this Saturday circled on the calendar as an off-day for weeks now.
It’s amazing to think the regular season is three-quarters of the way over. Football season really is a blur, and when you’re in it, there are very few moments to step away from it all and get a bird’s-eye view of a team and a program.
Most bye weeks function this way. They are times to examine where a team or program is in relation to expectations for the season. They are checkpoints for progress within the confines of a season. These markers along the winding road through autumn are important to maintain perspective concerning what a team has accomplished thus far.
In 2013, Clemson is in a good spot. It is in the top eight of the BCS standings, with the only loss coming to a team currently slated to play in the national title game. I’d say that’s a plus.
The offense has been highly productive, if not quite as explosive as in years past. Nuk Hopkins, Andre Ellington, Jaron Brown, and Brandon Ford have proven difficult to replace with the players currently in the program. I understand the frustration of fans who expected more from the unit with a fifth-year senior quarterback and four returning starters on the offensive line, but I don’t think honest fans are dissatisfied with the general results this season.
Defensively, the team is much improved. What a wonderful job Brent Venables has done turning a legitimate weakness into a strength that can team with the offense to create balance within the program. Most of these players will be back next season to help the program continue to advance on this side of the football. But right now, Clemson’s defense is as consistently strong as it has been in a quarter-century—especially given the offensive age in which we live and operate.
If I had to directly compare 2013 to 2012, I’d say the offense is a little worse and the defense is a lot better. Clemson sits squarely in the loftiest of national perches with a chance to rise a few spots more in the coming weeks. I’d say that’s exactly where Clemson fans have wanted this program to be for a long, long time.
Including last season, Clemson has now been ranked in the top ten 11 consecutive times for the first time in history. That is an unbelievable run of consistency that demonstrates an unprecedented level of performance within the program.
Yet there seems to be a bit of unrest among the Clemson faithful because the offense doesn’t “look” as sharp and because the defense seems to give up too many big plays. Both are correct, but the Tigers are still winning games. In a bottom line world, that’s the bottom line.
You can’t miss it.
So as we enter this bye week, stop and take a deep breath. The season kicks back into gear a week from Thursday against Georgia Tech, and it won’t be long before the showdown in Columbia appears on the calendar.
Savor these moments, Clemson fans, especially on this bye week. These are the days we’ve all been awaiting for so long.