It might be time for Dabo Swinney to gas up the ole “ROY bus” again following Clemson’s loss to Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend that snapped the Tigers’ ACC-record 36-game regular season winning streak.
Swinney has proclaimed at times in the past that Clemson was on the “ROY bus,” or the imaginary vehicle he refers to as the pack of teams in college football chasing Alabama. The Tigers’ head coach first said his team was on the ROY bus throughout the latter part of the 2018 season, although they ultimately went on to throttle the Crimson Tide in the national title game that year.
But since the last time Swinney brought out the ROY bus – after the Tigers were criticized and doubted by many in the media following their narrow 21-20 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill last season – the ROY bus has been parked in the shed, covered up and in need of some maintenance.
“I had an open week, so I went back out to the shed this week and I took the tarp off the ROY bus, just took it off,” Swinney said following the close call against the Tar Heels last September.
“I thought we were off the ROY bus for a while. I just took it off, pumped the tires back up, gave it a bath, a little oil change. Went down there to the $5 oil change, fluffed up the seats a little bit … Back on the ROY bus, man. Here we go!”
Similar to after the North Carolina game, the Tigers head into a bye week after coming up just short in Saturday’s 47-40, double-overtime defeat at the hands of a top-four Fighting Irish team. So, it would make sense for Swinney to crank up the ROY bus again now that Clemson has slipped in the polls and fallen in the rankings of media members, like sportswriter Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network, an AP voter who dropped the Tigers to No. 6 this week.
Clemson fell from No. 1 to No. 4 in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll this week, with Alabama displacing the Tigers at No. 1 in both polls. Meanwhile, ESPN college football analysts such as Kirk Herbstreit, Jesse Palmer and Joey Galloway all have Alabama at No. 1 and Clemson at No. 4 in their latest rankings, while it is the same in ESPN’s overall college football power rankings for Week 10.
Despite the Tigers going on the road with a freshman quarterback in D.J. Uiagalelei and nearly ending Notre Dame’s current streak of 23 consecutive wins at home and 13 straight wins overall – and doing so without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and several key defensive players sidelined by various injuries – the national narrative has seemingly shifted back to Alabama being atop the college football landscape and Clemson is now just part of the “rest of y’all” group chasing the Crimson Tide.
If the Tigers are back on the ROY bus, then they will have to earn the respect of the College Football Playoff committee in order to park the bus and get back off it. The good news for Clemson is that it could very well have a good chance to do so.
Assuming Clemson takes care of business the rest of the regular season and so does Notre Dame, the two teams would meet again in the ACC Championship Game with more national championship implications on the line. If the Tigers win out and can avenge Saturday’s loss to the Irish, they will be back in the CFP for the sixth consecutive year, looking to win their third national title in the last five seasons – a feat that would certainly keep the ROY bus in the shed.
Another championship season is underway for the Tigers. It’s time to gear up for another year of Clemson football.
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