No. 25 Clemson’s 28-7 Week 1 loss to Duke on Monday night has left the Tiger program vulnerable to taking all shots and hot takes from college football talking heads.
One of the loudest admonishments this week came from SEC Network and ESPN reaction guru Paul Finebaum, who declared on national television that Clemson’s elongated run of competing among America’s elite is over.
“Dabo’s dynasty is done,” Finebaum said on ESPN morning show “Get Up” on Tuesday. “It’s really been teetering for a couple years, but what happened last night is simply unexplainable.”
Finebaum has been stranger when it comes to criticising Clemson, but he held nothing back.
“They didn’t lose to a Florida State or an Alabama or a Notre Dame or a Georgia,” Finebaum added. “They lost to Duke, which has a very good quarterback and a nice program. ‘Nice’ being the operative word. They have nowhere to go. And Dabo’s nonsense after the game isn’t going to impress anyone. This program is flatlining right now.”
Finebaum was far from the only media type to question Clemson’s direction.
“(Heat) was getting loud last year,” ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit said on the Pat McAfee Show. And everybody put in on (former Clemson QB) DJ (Uiagalelei).”
Swinney, always the optimist, pointed out that plenty of people were going to give up and quit on his team, but he vowed that he wouldn’t, despite an effort that saw the Tigers turn the ball over with two fumbles, one interception, two blocked field goals, and two on downs.
They made three consecutive red-zone trips to start the second half but never scored in the final 30 minutes. This was with new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley running things, the big change that was supposed to get the Tigers back to elite status.
“If we do what we did offensively for the rest of the year, we won’t lose another game,” Swinney said Wednesday. “It’s just that simple.”
Obviously, he isn’t referring to the turnovers and the lack of scoring.
But out of context, that’s not helping his case against the naysayers.
So is Dabo’s Dynasty falling apart? Are there too many cracks in the foundation to get the Tigers on track? Is the lack of transfer portal usage and coaching in this NIL era really destroying a program that’s won two national titles and made six College Football Playoff berths since 2015?
It’s too early to be definitive, and Clemson will have to have one heck of a rebound to that Week 1 loss, beat Florida State (twice probably) and make what feels like an impossible run to the CFP to turn this “heat” down.
However, it’s also incredibly difficult to refute claims against this program until the product on the field looks more like 2019 and less like 2021. It looks like it’s headed for its third consecutive season without a playoff invite.
We’ll find out two weeks from now just how flukey Monday night really was or if there’s a new (actually old) program ready to take over the Tigers’ spot atop the ACC.
If the latter happens, prepare for even louder statements on the Clemson demise.
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