ESPN staffer disagrees with Finebaum, says 'the tales of Clemson’s demise are long exaggerated'

ESPN staffer disagrees with Finebaum, says 'the tales of Clemson’s demise are long exaggerated'

Football

ESPN staffer disagrees with Finebaum, says 'the tales of Clemson’s demise are long exaggerated'

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Although Clemson saw its streak of six straight ACC Championships and College Football Playoff appearances come to an end last season, the Tigers still managed to win 10 games for a school-record 11th consecutive season in 2021.

Nonetheless, that was considered a “down” year by the high standards that Dabo Swinney’s program has set during his tenure in which the Tigers have won seven conference titles, made the playoff every year from 2015-20, advanced to the national title game in four of those seasons and won it all in 2016 and 2018.

While 2021 may have been a subpar season for Swinney’s program based on expectations, ESPN’s Matt Schick fully expects the Tigers to have a bounceback campaign in 2022.

That’s what the ESPN college studio host and play-by-play commentator said on Packer and Durham on ACC Network recently when discussing the outlook of the ACC’s Atlantic Division entering this season.

“It all comes down to, does Clemson rebound? The ACC Atlantic is all about, does Clemson rebound, off of a 10-win season?” Schick said. “That’s where the standard is, and the fact that Clemson has moved into the category of ‘10 wins is just not good enough’ shows how Dabo has lifted the votes of this league and of this conference and at Clemson.”

“I do think Clemson bounces back here this year. I really do,” Schick continued. “I don’t know what happens at the quarterback position. I think that’s a real big question mark. But you don’t string top-10 and top-five classes together and not put it together in that conference. So, I like NC State a lot. I think a lot went well for them last year, and specifically, it helps when Clemson isn’t what we expect. Are they going to be what we’ve expected in the past? I think they’re going to look more like that than they did last year, to be honest.”

Last season, after Clemson suffered its second defeat in September – a 27-21, double-overtime loss to NC State in Raleigh on Sept. 25 – ESPN’s Paul Finebaum opined that “Dabo’s dynasty is done.”

Schick disagreed with Finebaum’s statement, saying, “I think the tales of Clemson’s demise are long exaggerated.”

“You don’t recruit at that level and think, ‘It’s over,’” Schick explained. “You hear Finebaum, ‘It’s over! It’s over with Clemson!’ It’s not over. I think the big question is, with the coordinator switch for the first time, (Tony) Elliott and (Brent) Venables, what does that look like? The structure is there, the foundation is there, it’s just this was the first year that they just missed on the quarterback – the quarterback didn’t perform. Look at the long line. The law of averages says at some point, it was going to stop, or you were going to have a hiccup. They had it last year.”

Despite D.J. Uiagalelei’s struggles in his first full season as Clemson’s starting quarterback last year – when he completed 55.6 percent of his passes and threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (9) following his strong freshman debut in 2020, when he threw for 781 yards and four touchdowns with no picks in two starts vs. Boston College and Notre Dame – Schick expects the Tigers to reclaim the Atlantic Division crown this season.

“You had D.J. Uiagalelei on Dr. Pepper ads in the preseason. He hadn’t done anything yet except a really good game (in 2020) against Notre Dame,” Schick said. “But he hadn’t been the guy, and he’s the guy, and maybe it was too much. Maybe the expectations were too high. But they’ve recruited at too high of a level. Now I think they know what they have at the quarterback position, and maybe you’re winning in spite of, not because of. But I just trust that program too much to not think that they’re going to win the division.”

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