The saying goes, “Eventually, the cream rises to the top.” Over the last couple of years one team that has definitely put themselves firmly in the cream category is Clemson. The defending national champions entered this season with more question marks than in recent seasons; but as the season progresses it appears they’re finding more answers than their opponents once again. This week’s Inside The ACCACC Spotlight focuses on Dabo Swinney’s Tigers.
Last season, Clemson faced an NC State Wolfpack team that shouldn’t have had a chance to beat the Tigers down in Death Valley. Instead, they were the benefactors of a missed chip-shot field goal by the Wolfpack and went on to win in overtime.
Last weekend was the highly-anticipated rematch with NC State, a team that had their sights on a big season coming into the last two weeks. A packed house in Raleigh saw something all too familiar. The Wolfpack came out strong to start the game, only to struggle down the stretch and watch Clemson once again, leave the field victorious.
Once again, the cream had risen to the top. This game may have been Clemson’s last major hurdle to making the CFP.
Clemson is now 13-1 vs. Top 25 teams over the last three years. The only loss is the National Championship loss to Alabama
— Zach Lentz (@ZachLentzTandD) November 4, 2017
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are currently in the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings. After beating the Wolfpack they have now defeated the most teams with a winning record in the nation. When the rankings come out tonight they should find themselves still in the coveted top four. So how did they get here?
First, their defensive front is as good as anybody in the nation. They come into this week ranked second in the nation in sacks and sacks-per-game. The Tigers are also in the top five in the country in tackles-for-loss. Disrupting opposing quarterbacks has helped land them in the top 10 in scoring defense, which, at the end of the day, is the name of the game.
Second, the graduation of Deshaun Watson was a huge loss at quarterback. However, junior Kelly Bryant has filled in well so far this season. The importance of having him in the game was never more evident than when his absence led to their lone loss this season against Syracuse. Bryant needs to dial in his accuracy down the stretch, but he’s getting his offense into the end zone as the second highest scoring team in the ACC. As long as he keeps doing that, this team will be hard to beat.
Tigers hang on!
No. 4 Clemson defeats No. 20 NC State 38-31, its ninth straight win in a ranked matchup. pic.twitter.com/DauJIWZcWR
— ESPN (@espn) November 4, 2017
Finally, Dabo and his staff are proving once again to be a formidable group. It’s no accident that this team has made the national championship game two years in a row. They’ve won at least ten games per season every year since 2010. The most valuable trait behind their success has been their ability to get their players to focus for 60 minutes and never panic. In this last game there were moments when they could have let the game get away from them in front of a hostile crowd. In the end, they used all 60 minutes to come out of Raleigh victorious.
As mentioned earlier, outside of their lone loss to Syracuse, Clemson has defeated the most teams with a winning record. Outside of this last win, those victories have come pretty easily, including the game up in Blacksburg against a good Virginia Tech team.
Looking ahead, they welcome an enigma of a team in Florida State to Death Valley this week. They should win this game and clinch another trip to the ACC Championship game, most likely to face a Miami team that just keeps on winning games in the ACC. There is still that pesky rivalry game to finish the year in Columbia against South Carolina, but they should win that game.
So, once again, their CFP chances will hinge on the ACCCG. Right now, the Tigers look like they have what it takes to do that and have a chance to make their third straight appearance in the national championship game. If they do that, then Dabo will cement their place in rarified air in college football.