Atlantic Division Preview – The Case Against…Clemson

As college football season approaches, I noted how difficult it was to pick someone to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. On the flip side, I could easily argue the case against every team. The “slow season” for Wolfpack news is an ideal time to explore this in more detail. Today, we look at everybody’s favorite perennial underachievers – the Clemson Tigers.

It’s fair to say that in a division with Jim Grobe, Tom O’Brien, and even the current low-wattage version of Bobby Bowden, Clemson is at a distinct coaching disadvantage. Of course, this is nothing new for the Clemson faithful, as they’ve been muttering the IPTAY Kiss of Death (“He’s no Danny Ford!”) for almost twenty years. Following a lackluster 3-3 start that included a nationally televised spanking by Alabama and an ugly home loss to Maryland, Clemson forced Tommy Bowden out at midseason and elevated then-WR Coach Dabo Swinney to interim head coach. Swinney, whose name sounds more like a ranch hand from a Steinbeck novel than a football coach, won 4 of 6 games (including a shellacking of rival South Carolina in the regular season finale) before getting the “interim” tag removed on December 1. Swinney’s charges then lost their bowl game to a middling Nebraska squad, 26-21.

There is nothing in Swinney’s background to suggest he is ready to be a head coach – at least not at the BCS level, and especially not at a pressure cooker like Clemson. He is known as an excellent recruiter, but getting talent certainly hasn’t been Clemson’s problem in recent years. He is good at gladhandling boosters, but that’s not exactly how championships are won. He has embraced the still-living legend Danny Ford – which should buy him a few years of goodwill, but not much else. Fun fact – the Pack’s Dick Sheridan is the only coach ever to beat a Danny Ford-coached Clemson team three years in a row. This is especially impressive given that the Tiggers played Georgia on an annual basis during most of his tenure. Giving Swinney the job was a short-sighted, cost-cutting, emotional decision, and we know how those usually work out.

Like many of its ACC counterparts, Clemson has QB issues. Sophomore Willy Korn will battle redshirt freshman Kyle Parker and true freshman Tajh Boyd for the starting job (see TigerNet’s take here). To me, it sounds like nobody knows what to expect. Perhaps it will shake out by midseason, but by then, Clemson will have already played half of its league slate. Electric RB C.J. Spiller returns for his senior season, but nobody knows if he can shoulder the full rushing load without the “thunder” component provided by departed senior James Davis. Offensive line is also a question mark, which leads one to ponder whether Clemson’s entire offensive attack depends on a “scatback” runner who’s going to take a pounding and likely wear down as the season progresses.

Clemson also does not have a favorable schedule. The Tigers don’t play Duke, and its two easiest conference games – Boston College and Virginia – are at home. There’s no better way to slide up the conference standings than getting some easy games on the road (it’s also good to get your worst matchups out of the way on the road) – that way, all you have to do is “hold serve” at home. Alas, all four of the ‘Tiggers’ road games are difficult ones (Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and NC State). None of these games are preceded by an off week. In fact, the most brutal matchup of all (at Georgia Tech on Thursday, September 10) is both early in the season and coming off a short week of practice. That’s not insurmountable, as 6-2 or even 5-3 can probably cinch the Atlantic crown – but it does make the road that much tougher.

Related Links:
* Sporting News has their Clemson preview in at #49 in the country. (Link to article)

* Dr. Saturday has – “The Dabo Difference”

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

'09 Football

40 Responses to Atlantic Division Preview – The Case Against…Clemson

  1. CaptainCraptacular 07/16/2009 at 10:04 AM #

    Well, As I mentioned I certainly don’t expect them to run the table. They may even start 0-2 vs Miami and @ BYU. However I do think 9-4 again is a realistic expectation for the noles with a 6-2 or 5-3 conf mark.

  2. choppack1 07/16/2009 at 11:06 AM #

    And Captain, if FSU goes 9-4 or 5-3 in conference they are still an underachieving program unless they have a bus wreck or half the team is out the year w/ the swine flu.

  3. CaptainCraptacular 07/16/2009 at 11:18 AM #

    If they go 6-2, go to and possibly win the ACCCG, I’m not sure that can be construed as an underachieving season. 5-3 and not winning the division, yes. From the way their roster is now signs point to 2010 for the Noles to have a special season (3 yr O-line starters and Ponder being a senior, no Tim Tebow at UF).

  4. choppack1 07/16/2009 at 1:03 PM #

    I’m not sure who I’d classify FSU’s season if they went 6-2 in conference and 9-4 overall…Really too early to tell. Lots of ways you can get there. 2 conference losses doesn’t exactly scream that they are back, but it would make a case that they are heading the right direction.

  5. BJD95 07/16/2009 at 1:21 PM #

    Is this you guys’ way of asking me to analyze Florida State next? 🙂

  6. CaptainCraptacular 07/16/2009 at 1:30 PM #

    Sure! Part 3 of a 6 part series.

  7. Bubba 07/16/2009 at 1:32 PM #

    Off Topic But did anyone else get email from the Wolfpack Club asking you to join Head Coach TOB and wife Jenny along with Athletics Director Lee Fowler and wife Carol for a weeklong tour of Ireland next May?

  8. BJD95 07/16/2009 at 1:50 PM #

    ^ Yes, it made me want to vomit.

  9. CaptainCraptacular 07/16/2009 at 2:02 PM #

    Yea I received it as well.

  10. JimValvano 07/16/2009 at 3:29 PM #

    Interesting article I found

    Tells which teams are overrated and underrated going into the football season. Looks like Rivals respects the Pack!!!

  11. Broccoman 07/16/2009 at 4:30 PM #

    Unrelated: but the HPE had an article about Big Ben tearing it up in the Summer league for the Lakers.

    Also, PR pulled a Lebron:

  12. 61Packer 07/16/2009 at 9:34 PM #

    Could it be that our key game of the season will be at home on November 14 vs Clemson? Historically, the Textile Bowl hasn’t been kind to us, although I believe we’re going to be the better team this season.

    I just hope this game doesn’t end up on ESPN-U.

  13. VaWolf82 07/16/2009 at 9:48 PM #

    I believe we’re going to be the better team this season.

    You better wait until you see how their QB situation works out before you start making projections/predictions. This time last year, no one would have projected that Russell Wilson would lead the ACC in total offense and be first-team all ACC.

  14. choppack1 07/16/2009 at 10:43 PM #

    After the Clemson and SC games, no one would have predicted that.

    I still can’t get over the fact he only threw one INT all year

  15. howlie 07/17/2009 at 7:56 AM #

    o f f s e a s o n d o g d a y s

    Parched for an article…


Leave a Reply