From 2016 to 2019, Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers were seen as the best team in college football or the only reputable challenge to Nick Saban and Alabama. But those days are long gone now, as we just saw what might have been the worst performance from a Clemson offense under Swinney we have ever seen.
What Monday Night That Bad?
Dabo Swinney had over 200 yards passing and rushing on Monday night. Until this game, he was 53-0 when he could do that. Over 400 yards of total offense, mixed with the fact that you have 56 four or five-star prospects on your team, is usually enough to get you the victory in college football. This loss worsens when you consider they were facing a team with two total four or five-star prospects and a team that had yet to win against a top-ten opponent since 1989. Ironically, Duke also beat Clemson back then.
Clemson has owned the ACC as of late, winning the conference every year since 2015 except for one. This has made Clemson the presumed favorite every year to win the ACC and demolish every team in their path. But when you only score seven total points against Duke, that's a problem.
How Does It Look For Clemson Going Forward?
The future could be more bright. I don't say that because suddenly, you can't recruit anymore; Swinney will still be able to recruit like he needs to. I say this because other teams in the ACC are finally rebuilding. Florida State has been monstrous and a powerhouse in sports history but has struggled since the departure of Jimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston. That team beat the number five team in the country, LSU, and is now ranked fourth overall with a real chance to make the college football playoff.
With other teams like Duke, Pitt, and UNC starting to be a lot better against Clemson and being a lot scarier, Clemson's road will take a lot of work. The ACC has been widely considered the weakest conference in college football, and if Clemson can no longer easily win it, then it doesn't bode well for them.
So, Is Clemson Done For The Year?
As much negativity as I've said about the Tigers, they aren't done yet. FSU is a formidable opponent, but they get their chance to play them in the regular season. Cade Klubnik, despite having an awful game in the loss, is still incredibly talented and can lead this team to a playoff spot. Typically, you are in the playoff race until you have two losses. While one this early isn't good, it's better than it happening later. It gives the selection committee time to decide if you're deserving, knowing you (theoretically) haven't lost since the first week.
They'll have to defeat FSU, a dangerous Notre Dame team, and a UNC team led by a future first-round draft pick, but they are all winnable games. If Clemson can win out and win the ACC, they'll still have a perfect shot at the playoff. Especially if the blood bath in the B10 happens where Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State all end with one loss. While their dominance might be over, Clemson still has a prayer.
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