By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush.
There’s nothing I hate more than the rush of way-too-early-but-let’s-confuse-people-anyway top 25 polls for next season. I loathe them, passionately.
But it’s never too early to think about how the 2015 Clemson Tigers might stack up in a game like the world witnessed on Monday, when Ohio State beat Oregon to take home the national title in the very first College Football Playoff. The future seems to look good to the talking heads around the country as far as the Tigers are concerned.
Already, these absurd polls have Clemson as high as second. A good number—albeit not a majority—of prognosticators have thrown around Dabo Swinney’s team as one of next season’s last four standing.
All of this is nice to think about, but is it realistic? Can the Tigers do what Ohio State did this season? Heck, can they even do what Alabama and Florida State did, making the playoff field and losing?
My principle issue with these lists is how fickle the roster is right now. National Signing Day is still three weeks away, so plenty can still change regarding the freshman class. Guys can still declare for the NFL Draft, or transfer, or get seriously injured.
With so much upheaval, it’s borderline irresponsible to judge the nation based on a collection of fictional rosters that will almost certainly not go into next season as we see them now. But that’s what the people want, apparently.
So, would I pencil Clemson into next year’s playoff? No, I wouldn’t.
Questions about quarterback health and depth are legitimate. I can’t imagine how Brent Venables can replace all the leadership lost from the nation’s top-ranked defense. Those were some pretty talented players, too, particularly up front.
There are other issues, as well, but I’ve tried to look at Clemson through the prism of the nation at-large, since we tend to be nitpicky when we’re close to a certain situation. Those perceived warts are enough to keep the Tigers in my second tier of teams nationally, just on the outside looking in.
Now let’s take a look at the schedule. This is another reason why I’m not a big fan of any polls right now. We might know which teams will be playing each other, but we don’t know the sequence of games in total. It’s tough to gauge the strength of a schedule without knowing where each game and bye week falls.
The Tigers’ two toughest conference games (Florida State and Georgia Tech) are at home, as well as a marquee home tilt with Notre Dame. They have trips to Louisville, Miami, and South Carolina to contend with, but it seems like this is a pretty favorable slate.
I see the Tigers as one year away from being able to credibly compete for the national title. However, this schedule might provide an easier path than next season.
In essence, this blog did nothing but give you a bunch of wishy-washy nonsense. Sorry about that.
It does make for stimulating conversation, though, and clearly we could use some of that during this long eight-month trek toward the 2015 season.