This is the Clemson we’ve been waiting to see

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney holds the trophy as quarterback Deshaun Watson stands next to him after the team's Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Clemson won 31-0 to advance to the BCS championship game on Jan. 9th against Alabama. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Dynamic duo: Dabo and Deshaun. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

We what we saw New Year’s Eve was the Clemson I’d been waiting to see all season — not just a team capable of eking out narrow victories but a team strong enough to dominate a really good opponent. We saw that team against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl last season. This was even more impressive.

I’m not sure any Urban Meyer team — not at Utah, not even at Bowling Green — has ever looked so helpless. And remember, Ohio State was favored. (Feel free to forget that I picked the Buckeyes to win.) Given Urban a month to prepare and the opponent is usually in trouble. Clemson was so much the better team that you wondered if ESPN switched the semis without telling anybody — that Clemson was really Alabama and Ohio State was Washington.

When this season began, Clemson was No. 2 to Alabama’s No. 1, which is how last season ended. (For the record, I had the Tigers ranked ahead of Bama.) In the third-from-last set of College Football Playoff rankings, Clemson had slipped to No. 4 behind both Ohio State and Michigan. The home loss to Pittsburgh was the best thing that could have happened to the men of Dabo, seeing as how they’d been flirting with losing ever since their opening night at Auburn.

When a team returns most of its stars from a heady season, there’s invariably a hangover. Florida State in 2014 and Ohio State in 2015 were never as good as expected. (Neither was Alabama in 2010; that might well have been Nick Saban’s most talented team, but it lost three games.) Clemson wobbled often but tripped only against Pitt, which was good enough to get the Tigers back to the playoff, which was all that mattered.

This might be an oversimplification, but Clemson played most of this season as if waiting for another shot at Alabama. Here it is. If the Tigers play in Tampa anywhere close to the way they did in Glendale, the championship game won’t be a Bama walkover. It’s still hard to imagine the Crimson Tide losing — they played at maybe 60 percent capacity and beat Washington by 17 points — but it’s not hard to imagine Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman testing the Bama defense in a way it hasn’t been tested since Jan. 11, 2016.

That night the Tigers mustered 550 yards and 40 points. They still lost, but it was a hairbreadth thing. Now they get to try again, and if the game comes down to Jalen Hurts having to outdraw Watson, Clemson will win. Not saying that will happen. Just saying it could.

Reader Comments 0

243 comments
Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Looks as good a place as any to make the 2017 UGa football prospectus. Supposedly the #1 all time recruiting class in Dog history(We have all heard this before). CKS 2nd year begins with a closer than expected home win vs App State (a team that has a rep for playing tough Power 5 teams in season openers).Leading up to what in my opinion is the most telling game on the Dogs 2017 schedule at Notre Dame.Can Eason have his anticipated break out game or will he continue to underachieve under Fatz Chaney's offensive scheme.A Dogs win in South Bend may lead to a great 2017 season, a loss may lead to many changes and much louder criticism of Smart and his staff.With what appears on paper to be another soft SEC schedule (Miss State from the SEC West) Smart's '17 Dogs better challenge for the SEC East title (Fla will not be down much longer) or Kirby may start feeling the heat.Another 4 loss season and RichtNation will continue to grumble about WHY their 10 win a year hero was replaced.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Buschleaguer: "Can Eason have his anticipated break out game or will he continue to underachieve under Fatz Chaney's offensive scheme."

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The return of Fatz is my biggest concern. I think he showed in the first half of the bowl game that he didn't learn much over the entire season about how to successfully direct an offense blessed with elite backfield talent.

DawginLex
DawginLex

"Not only did Ohio State embarrass themselves, they also really embarrassed the BIG Ten conference."


Kirk Herbstreit

January 2, 2017


Where did he play?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Nick Saban just told Lane Kiffin to stay in Jupiter Florida and keep away from the Tide offense. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

Was saying all along that 0SU didn't deserve to be in the playoffs.  They definitely proved me right.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Tech wins at being the dirtiest team in college football,  cheating, Chop Block U.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Enjoy gym dog season, dogs. 


Peace Out

FlatTire
FlatTire

@TOJacket  what has the Georgia Tech sports program won in anything?

FlatTire
FlatTire

@TOJacket  and you got wins over FL and Tenn right?  the two teams that won over UGA?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@OH:IO The buckeyes offense has not been a playoff caliber unit for most of 2016. The Michigan game was a prime example.The Michigan QB was the Buckeyes most valuable offensive player. Barrett has had difficulty behind the underwhelming buckeyes O-line, Meyer has recruited speedy skill players and appears to have neglected the big guys up front. Clemson exposed this Saturday night, and by media reports a shakeup will occur with Meyer's offensive staff.Luckily for Meyer and the Buckeyes ,the B1G is still the most overrated conference in the Power 5. As their2-4 bowl record confirms this year, if the B1G sweeps their games today it will get back to.500.Or if they get swept it would lead to an embarrassing 2-7 2016 bowl record.

Big Wally
Big Wally

...and we just stole a commit from LSU.  Great job coaches.  


Oh and Clemson just scored again 0SU.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@Big Wally


You are  are a fool. 


The game is over. 


Just like you 8-5 toilet bowl season. 

FlatTire
FlatTire

@OH:IO  sure is; maybe the Overrated St football coaching staff can turn the Xbox on and coach a touch down against Clemson on Xbox


LOL

Big Wally
Big Wally

@OH:IO @Big Wally Your team couldn't score against a stiff breeze.


bwhahahahahaha.


Boy you sure are in a bad mood, that embarrassing lose sure is getting to you.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

You "are  are" a fool???

Just like "you" season???

Who's the fool, lying hypocrite.

And are you just now realizing "the game is over"???

Here's some news for you, jerk: It was over before your frauds ever got started.


Big Wally
Big Wally

As I have been saying, any Power 5 conference that has 4 teams in the bottom 30 of all of FBS, isn't a Power 5 conference worth a crap.  


Need proof;  Look at Michgan and 0SU bowl games, and look at the Big 10 bowl record of 2-5, the worse of all of the Power 5 conferences.  


Once again, Big 10 = joke.

forexbomb
forexbomb

OSU should have NEVER been in a position to play the game.. Pathetic ESPN puppets that will not say anything about the obvious..  The politics of picking the 4 teams is a JOKE!

Big Wally
Big Wally

@forexbomb Absolutely, as I have been saying, the only reason 0SU was ever ranked that high, is because they thought Urban and Blowhio State could give Bama a run, like they did 2 years ago.  Boy, were they wrong.

TOJacket
TOJacket

It was going to be them, Michigan or Penn State....would have been the same result.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket Won't know because they gave it to an undeserving OSU team.  The Michigan and Penn State QB's can actually complete forward passes, unlike the 0SU QB.


LOL.

Big Wally
Big Wally

0SU (note the zero, not an O).  Clemson had almost as many interception return yards as 0SU had in passing yards.  How can a supposed powerhouse, mighty Big 10 team be that bad?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Big Wally

Well, oh:io's pulling for them--that's enough to make any team retch.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Big 10, last 2 playoff games outscored 69-0.  How you claim to be a Power 5 conference with that kind of ineptitude.  Just proves how easy the playoff committee got fooled.

tipstotips
tipstotips

@Big Wally The committee needs to do a better job for sure although I feel pretty sure Penn State will get clocked today as well.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Yo flat


"Some" programs have won two NC's in this century. 


Just hang on to those coattails. 

FlatTire
FlatTire

2-17 vs Southern football teams

Let us know when Overrated state evens that record this century

What an embarrassment

OH:IO
OH:IO

Hey dogs,


What is your 3 year record in THE Playoffs?


crickets

OH:IO
OH:IO

@FlatTire


When was the last time the dogs actually  played in a nationally relevant game?

FlatTire
FlatTire

What was that?

Oh yeah 2-17 vs Southern football teams. 0-5 vs Clemson and South Carolina

Now that's really embarrassing

FlatTire
FlatTire

Tell Rutgers and Maryland to leave the pansy 10, let UGA in and we won't have that problem every year

DawginLex
DawginLex

@OH:IO We have scored as many points in the playoffs as the two reps from the BIG did the last 2 years


LULZ

DawgNole
DawgNole

@FlatTire

Throw in UGA and FSU and that 0-5 becomes 0-9.

Now that's embarrassing--and humiliating, and disgraceful, and shameful, and  . . . .

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

When was the last time the Dawgs got waxed 31-0 in a nationally relevant game?

When's the last time your team got its as* handed it to it 31-0 in any game?

How soon you forget, lying hypocrite.

DawginLex
DawginLex

Ohio state =Hillary Clinton


Media puffs up, predicts big win only to get curb stomped when the actual game is played.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@DawginLex Kind of like Bama and OK a few years ago? I think Nick wanted to start making new rules right after that.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@DawginLex


Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton


THE Buckeyes will be back.


dogs prefer 8-5 and toilet bowls

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO: "THE Buckeyes will be back."

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Stop lying, hypocrite.

You said that last year--and the year before. You're still a loser--and a disgraceful (0-31) one at that.