With the returning talent, the incoming prospects, and with a tremendous schedule, there’s no excuse: it’ll be CFP or bust.
Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
I can’t hear you. I have too much talent in my ears.
Sorry, Clemson. You’re stuck with being amazing.
Clemson, you’re now in the Alabama and Ohio State category – either you win the national championship, or your season is a failure. That’s not necessarily a fun place to be, but boo hoo.
Ask Buckeye fans how successful they think their season was. Urban Meyer might have though it was great with a Big Ten championship and a blowout Cotton Bowl win over USC – and it was. However, try talking to a Buckeye fan right now who still feels jilted over missing out on playing in the CFP.
Alabama had an amazing 2016 season by just about every standard. It won the SEC title, got to the national title game, and put together one of the best campaigns of all-time.
But as radio host Ryan Fowler on Tide 102.9 in Tuscaloosa, yelled to me on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field as the confetti was flying, “I don’t have to do a year of funeral shows anymore!”
And for Clemson fans who saw the top of the mountain, yeah, 2017 will be remembered for how it ended as much as it was for winning another ACC Championship and being the CFP No. 1 seed. It’s always going to be stale, just like it was for Buckeye fans after the Tigers applied an atomic wedgie in the Fiesta Bowl the previous season.
Now, take those expectations from a fan base that went to three straight ACC Championships and College Football Playoffs, and turn the knob to 11.
There is no excuse for the 2018 Clemson Tigers to not, at least, get to the national championship for the third time in four years.
All four starters return to an NFL-caliber defensive line, and eight starters are back on a D that’ll be guaranteed to finish in the top five overall.
Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant – seriously, this is a pro front four full of future multi-millionaires. And there’s more where they came from on the depth chart.
Star OT Mitch Hyatt is back, almost all of the rushing production returns, and the quarterback situation is Deondre Francois-situation-proof, with Kelly Bryant established, Hunter Johnson waiting in the wings after coming in as last year’s star recruit, and Trevor Lawrence about to enter the picture with a bigger upside than both of them.
But with all of that talent, the real key is the schedule. Released on Wednesday, the ACC slate and overall schedule works out just well enough to roll through.
There aren’t back-to-back home games until the very end, but if this team really is national title-good, it rips through Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M team early on. It get by Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College on the road, and has few issues with NC State or Louisville at home.
The two big concerns? The Florida State game is in Tallahassee, but Clemson will almost certainly be favored. A loss probably won’t be crippling – even if the Tigers go 11-1, they might 2017 Alabama up and get in no matter what.
South Carolina is the other concern. The Tigers might have destroyed the Muschamps last year, but this is always a dangerous game, and the Gamecocks should be better.
Talent, schedule, depth, coaching, experience … and outsized expectations.
Yup, you’re part of the college football royalty now, Clemson. Try to enjoy the ride along the way.