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The most important 3-game stretch for Clemson football in 30 yrs

  • With two games remaining on Clemson’s regular season schedule and to-be-decided bowl game, is it OK to look ahead? For people inside the program (players, coaches, etc…), no; stay focused and take one game at a time. However, for fans, media and the like, it’s not only OK, it’s impossible not to. Why is looking ahead OK for the fans, media and the like? Maybe because this stretch-run is the most important stretch run for Clemson football in the last 30 years.

    Perception is reality, and the current national perception of Clemson football is the reason that, at 9-1, Clemson remains at number 11 in both the BCS and AP polls – dropping after a 35 point win, and behind 2-loss teams such as South Carolina, Texas A&M and LSU. Where does that perception come from? The ACC is perceived as a weak conference, and that perception is correct. Clemson has a 3 game losing steak to instate rival and SEC member South Carolina. Clemson is 1-5 in its last 6 bowl games, including a last year’s Orange Bowl when the defense allowed a bowl record 70 points. Clemson has regularly lost games in which it should not. All of these factors add up to the overall perception of Clemson football in the national media. However, all that having been said, this stretch is crucial to overcoming these perceptions and putting Clemson back into the national elite.

    Let’s quickly rewind to the 1980’s – what is considered a glory decade for the Clemson Tigers. The ACC was terrible in the 1980’s, there is no disputing that. However, even being affiliated with such a terrible conference, Clemson was not viewed in the same regard as they were today. Clemson was viewed as a national power. How did they get to that status? First and foremost, Clemson beat South Carolina on a regular basis. With a 7-2-1 record, Clemson owned the series. Second, Clemson regularly played Georgia – and for the most part, at 3-4-1, the series was pretty even. They also mixed in another SEC opponent, Kentucky, and went 2-1. The other piece of the puzzle, Clemson won their bowl games, going 5-1. Not only did they win their Bowl games, they beat national powers. Clemson beat an Ohio State football team coached by Woody Hayes (1978). Clemson beat a 12-1 Nebraska team coached by Tom Osborne. Clemson beat a Joe Paterno coached Penn State football team. Clemson beat an Oklahoma Sooner team coached by Barry Switzer. All of those factors added into Clemson’s perception. All of those factors negated the fact that Clemson played in a bad ACC.

    Now let’s fast forward to the present. Why is this stretch so important? We’ve already discussed how Clemson’s perception got to where it is. W Clemson has beaten Top 25 Auburn teams each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately for the Tigers, those Auburn teams have turned out to not live up to the ranking. With last year’s ACC Championship, the one proverbial monkey has been removed from Clemson’s back. But the perception of the ACC and the Orange Bowl debacle lessoned the accomplishment in many pundits’ minds. So where we are, Clemson is 9-1 with remaining games versus conference foe, NC State, rival South Carolina, and a to-be-decided Bowl game. This is setting up just like the 1980’s – and this stretch run can return Clemson to the National elite.

    First things first, beat NC State. Clemson has won the games they are supposed to win and has not played down to lesser competition -make no mistake, NC State is lesser competition. Next, beat South Carolina. With the SEC’s $2.25 billion dollar contract with ESPN and regular media bias, coupled with Clemson’s 3-game losing streak to the Gamecocks, this is a ‘must win’ for Clemson football. South Carolina will come into the contest at 9-2 and a Top 10 national ranking. Beating a Top 10 ranked SEC team, your rival at that, will go a long ways in shifting the national perception of the Tigers. If everything goes as is predicted by most pundits, Clemson will then face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Earlier in the week, Alabama was listed as a 12-point favorite over the Tigers – making it a ‘no-lose’ situation. If the Tigers can outscore the Tide, then the shift of perception happens overnight. If the Tigers keep it close but loses, all is not lost because the shift continues in a positive direction. The Tigers will then play a highly ranked Georgia Bulldog team to open the 2013 season – giving them yet another chance.

    Folks, the bottom line is that the same formula that brought the Tigers to prominence in the 1980’s is staring us in the face: beat your SEC rival, win the regular season games against SEC schools, win your upper tier bowl games against national powers. It’s simply up to the Tigers to take advantage.

    This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by Tim_Matty 20 months ago

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    Tim Matyaszek | Clemson 247Sports | Twitter: @Tim_Matty247

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    Tim Matyaszek | Clemson 247Sports | Twitter: @Tim_Matty247

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    Tim Matyaszek | Clemson 247Sports | Twitter: @Tim_Matty247

  • I'd agree with this. As a student in the 80's that was the formula that Danny Ford used to achieve national respect for Clemson. In those days we just had more swagger, and could go toe to toe with Georgia, FSU, Oklahoma, Penn State, West Virginia, etc. The game has change a lot since then, and the players have too, but back then you'd never envision Clemson going out and just getting buried in a bowl game like we did a few times in the last decade.

    Ford also annihilated USC most years, and the few times Clemson lost it was usually a close game and USC had a really good team. Many of those other years we just dominated. There was no question who the superior program was. USC is having unprecedented, sustained success with Spurrier over the last few years, but Clemson needs to go out and reestablish who's the better program and start winning these games again. To do that we need to understand why we've been losing to them, and the answer is simple: we need to be more physical.

    Funny thing is Ford was still prone to losing a game or two he shouldn't each year, even with those great teams. He seemed to especially have trouble with NC State and Dick Sheridan for a few years, and he also lost to Duke in '89 costing Clemson an ACC Title.

    All that said, this is a big stretch for Clemson to finish the deal. We sit at 9-1 with two home games remaining over teams we can beat. If the team takes their eye off the ball, either one of these teams can beat Clemson, as they easily demonstrated late last season. However, i'd agree this team seems more mature than last year, and they are generally more healthy and in better shape, so i'm expecting different outcomes. No question though, these games are important. finish 9-3 and go to another crappy bowl, and it's just another good, not great season, and USC will continue to be in front.

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    Jody Whitt | Clemson 247Sports

  • I totally agree dabo has the team dialed in, I have mentioned on here before how I credit him for installing that winners attitude that bama has. But as a coach myself you dont have control of these players 24/7, you only get so much time with them. I guess Im the only one who was pissed at how we started against Maryland...I know we won big but we looked flat and lethargic on offense to start the game,maybe I expect too much. My point really is we havent turned the corner yet but this year can get us there.

  • Serious question... so you blame the media and fans for that?

    If not, I'm not exactly sure what your point is anymore...

  • did I say I blamed anyone, but to disgard the outside noise and say it doesnt have an influence on 18-21 yr old kids is just ignorant

  • Don't get all pissy. I'm just trying to understand what you are saying.

    This place could use some more discussion, but it's hard to discuss anything if you can't follow the logic.

    Yes, a let down is always a worry with kids. But there is enough on the table and enough of a scar from last year to assume that won't be an issue this go round. Plus, Dabo has done a masterful job at getting our kids focused week to week so far.

    I just don't buy the notion that the media and/or fans should be forced to never talk about the rivalry game before rivalry week. It's human nature... especially if you live here and have had to endure all the shit talking that has gone on for the last 3 years. Right now, it appears we are the better team... people want to enjoy that. The team needs to focus on NCST, sure. But you seem to want Tim and company to not talk about SCar until we beat NCST, and I don't think that's their job. It's Dabo's.

    Just my two cents. I wasn't trying to attack you.

  • well that I agree with..and I appologize if I came off harsh...I guess my problem was more with the constant talk of the bcs and sugar bowl. As a fan and alum...I think about the coot game a lot. I grew up in the state and have friends and family who I have taken crap from the last three years so Im tired of it as well. I guess I just I see things from the other side because its a battle sometimes to get kids to constantly focus on the task at hand. I see both sides and I fully understand its natural to look ahead but when I hear media members ask players(not saying this site does it) about future games it drives me nuts. Dabo and company , I really credit a lot to Morris and venables as well cause both have won championships, have done a marvelous job of getting them ready week to week. This team appears to have the type of edge championship teams have, but I guess Im just weary of getting to far ahead of ourselves again. I enjoy the discussion and I wasnt saying there was a right or wrong...just giving my opinion as well.

  • I am glad you and JV came over for discussion. Have a seat and stay (:

    Cory Fravel www.clemson.247sports.com Twitter @CFravel247

  • Dabo has never beaten anybody that yall were not supposed to beat , he has 10 wins a year built into the schedule

  • Says the Gamecock whose team has one quality win this season. So you beat up on Wofford, UAB, Arkansas, Mizzou, and a couple other world beaters, feel good about that schedule? Oh wait, you are in the SEC so EVERYONE is a world beater. My bad.

  • youre waisting your time nole...gameocks are born delusional and retarded. Kentucky,Tennessee,Arkansas,Missouri,Vanderbilt(yes they doin well for vandy but their still avg) and now for the power house ooc schedule Uab,Ecu,and wofford. They beat their chest screaming sec and tough schedule but in reality it was just 3 games and UGA only played two tough games. Here are the sagarin ratings for that schedule minus the three decent teams

    Vandy #33
    ECU #87
    UAB #148
    MIZZ #44
    KY #89
    TENN #58
    ARK #64
    WOFFORD #119

  • I will never forget the reaction that some of their fans had when we beat them in the Chick Fil A bowl. They could not get over the fact that they got beat by an ACC team. The excuse was that we took out Lattimore with a dirty hit. Seriously, if you are that one dimensional then you don't deserve to win. Also, they seemed not to notice that they took out our starting QB in the 1st quarter. They have a very delusional fan base. I will take gator fans of USCe fans any day.

  • USC has played FSU once in the last 20 years. The last 10 times they played FSU is 9-1. I just can't understand why you would like Florida more the SC. I have relatives that live in Tally and I attended at least 1 game a year. I really like FSU and I hate that our fans made that much of an impression on you. My uncle hates him some gator. I figured most Noles felt the same. For the record Greg Reid is/was a great player and that was a very clean hit.

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  • I guess it's just the luck of the draw that I live in Atlanta surrounded by more USCe fans than gater fans. Don't get me wrong, I have no love for gaters, but I was sorely disappointed with the reaction of my neighborly USCe fans. The sheer contempt they have for all ACC teams was/is hard to deal with at times. It's hard to be an ACC fan in SEC territory sometimes.
    BTW, Greg Reid was kicked off the team, transferred to Valdosta State, then tore his ACL before he ever saw the field. It's a sad situation. Jimbo wanted to keep him but the admin. said no. Greg has not had an easy life, I sure hope that he turns things around.