At this point in the season, Clemson’s ascent, both nationally and within the conference, is largely in the hands of other teams. There is little other teams can do to help Clemson’s anemic strength of schedule. Mostly Clemson can just wait for other teams to lose. This week we saw Atlantic Division leading FSU overcome a scare from VT. And three teams ranked above Clemson, two of which were previously undefeated, lost on Saturday.
Let’s quickly review what Clemson’s past opposition has been up to.
- Auburn continued on as a joke of the SEc, losing 38-0 to UGA. The Auburn Tigers are now 2-8.
- Ball State beat #25 Toledo on Tuesday. At 7-3, Ball State remains one of the strongest teams that Clemson has beaten this year. Sagarin puts them at #3 on the list, behind GT and VT, but I think they could give either of those two teams a run for their money.
- Furman fell to 3-7 after a loss to App State.
- FSU, as mentioned, survived a scare from Virginia Tech. FSU certainly has talent, but their focus is sometimes lacking.
- BC lost, as expected to Notre Dame. To BC’s credit, they only lost by 15. BC is now 2-8.
- GT won a defenseless game against UNC. In the highest scoring game in ACC football history, Tech prevailed 68-50. Tech is now in play to win the Coastal with their 4-3 conference record
- Miami lost in the last seconds at Virginia. The Hoos are suddenly showing signs of life that I expected to emerge earlier in the season. The U took a 10 point lead with eleven minutes left in the 4th quarter. UVA looked lifeless, and the game seemed to be in hand. However UVA came back and Miami proved they aren’t ready to be taken seriously.
- VT, as mentioned, caved when it mattered against FSU. Tech is 4-6 and every time I hear an ESPN announcer talk about how good Logan Thomas is, about how he’s going to be playing on Sundays (in what country I wonder?), I want to shoot my TV.
- Wake Forest was beaten quite badly by NC State, the same NC State that was beaten quite badly the week before by UVA.
- Duke had the weekend off.
- Maryland, Clemson’s opponent of the week, did what was expected of them: lose badly. They forced three turnovers, which should be a point of concern for Clemson after similar problems against Duke. Otherwise they can help Clemson tremendously by executing a miracle and beating FSU next week
So there you have a bit of a summary of the sea of mediocrity that 10/12ths of the ACC.
For the remainder of the season, Clemson, for it’s part needs to play sharp, win, and win big if possible. One might forgive the Tigers for losing a bit of focus in the last several games where the outcomes have basically been decided by the end of the first quarter. Not to overlook NC State, but much of the success of this season hinges on the rivalry game with South Carolina.
One additional thought related to scheduling and the ACC: if the traditional ACC members continue to be so weak, it will behoove Clemson to use conference games as gimmes and schedule a slate of difficult out-of-conference games. I mean, have the last three games against Wake, Duke, and Maryland really been any different than the OOC games against Ball State and Furman?