Thanks to Miami’s win over Syracuse on Saturday, Clemson’s goals truly are in front of it.
With five games to play in the regular season, including three in the ACC, Clemson has an opportunity to achieve every one of its five goals for the season – win the first game, win the division, win the state, win the ACC and win the last game.
Miami handed the Orange their second loss in the ACC, meaning the Tigers once again control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. Starting this week against Georgia Tech, if Clemson runs the table and defeats the Yellow Jackets, NC State and Florida State, it once again will represent the Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship Game.
If the Tigers win the ACC Championship Game, plus beat rival South Carolina, then more than likely they will find themselves in the College Football Playoff for a third straight year. However, the question is do these Tigers have what it takes to make it back to the College Football Playoff?
The talent is definitely there, and we know the coaching is good enough. But remember, to have a special season like the Tigers have had the last two years, the drive has to be there as well. The want to, if you will.
I did not see that “want to” in Clemson’s loss to Syracuse on Oct. 13 in the Carrier Dome. The Tigers sort of played through the emotions of the game. After the game, we heard several Tigers say Syracuse wanted it more than they did.
That was true. Syracuse did want it more. It was the first time I saw a team want to win more than Clemson in a long time. Even in their loss to Pitt the year before, the Tigers still showed that drive and “want to” in defeat.
The Panthers won that game because Clemson handed it to them. The Tigers turned the ball over three times in the red zone. If they score on any of those opportunities, they would have won the game.
Against Syracuse, that was not the case. Clemson did not turn the ball over, and yes, the Tigers did have 11 penalties for 119 yards in the game, but there were no red zone turnovers or turnovers deep on their own side of the field that gave the Orange free points.
The penalties instead showed a lack of discipline and at times frustration on the Tigers part. Syracuse beat Clemson on both sides of the line of scrimmages and it was not even that close. Dabo Swinney called it a “butt kicking.” It was the kind of butt kicking Alabama has not even inflected upon the Tigers the last couple of years.
During this current run the Tigers have been on, nobody—even in defeat—outplays, outhustles and out coaches the Tigers, but that is what happened at the Carrier Dome and that is what is making me question the desire and want to of this year’s football team.
Granted, seeing your starting quarterback go down can hurt any team. But’s let’s be honest, it’s not like Clemson’s offense was setting the world on fire prior to Bryant’s injury.
Also, the defense being run up and down the field has nothing to do with the quarterback situation. They did not need Kelly Bryant to make stops. With the kind of players and athletes they have on defense, 24 points should have been enough to beat Syracuse.
Twenty points was enough for Miami this past Saturday.
Right now Clemson has to look at itself and ask, “Do I really want to be the best team, again?” And if that is so, then it should stop looking at all of its goals that lie in front of it and just focus on the task at hand.
If the Tigers truly believe they can win the ACC and get back to the College Football Playoff, then they will play like it, and the only thing that should really matter is beating Georgia Tech this Saturday.