Clemson makes case as nation’s No. 1 team
After a dominating win against Georgia Tech, Dabo Swinney unleashed his frustration at a reporter for bringing up the "Clemsoning" meme that has followed his program around for years despite the team having won 33 consecutive games against unranked opponents.
Two weeks later, that streak has reached 35 games, and the Tigers made their 19-point win against the Yellow Jackets look like a nail-biter compared to the annihilation they handed out to the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. When it was all over, the 58-0 loss gave the Hurricanes their worst defeat in program history.
Another opportunity for pundits to validate their expectations of a Clemson meltdown were not only wrong, but the Tigers also showed the country that they might just be the best team in college football.
No. 6 Clemson has now outscored its opponents 269-100 for the season, including a 135-41 margin in its last three games against ACC teams. The Swinney-led Tigers aren’t even hinting at any sign of a letdown or struggle against inferior competition.
On Saturday, Clemson’s offense stormed out of the gates, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions. The gameplan has been simple: Get running back Wayne Gallman the ball and let star sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson find his receivers in space. At times, Miami was loading eight defenders in the box, but the Clemson offensive line was still finding a way to get a push, and Gallman was finding a way to avoid tacklers to pick up yardage.
Defensively, Clemson managed to completely shut out a Miami offense that has been efficient and effective for most of the season. The Hurricanes ended the game with 146 total yards, three turnovers and six first downs. It was another dominant effort from a defense that was supposed to fall victim to a major drop-off.
Despite losing four starters currently logging significant time on NFL teams this fall, the Tigers’ defense is once again playing as one of the best in the country behind defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Heading into the Miami game, Clemson ranked second in defensive FEI, a metric combining all significant defensive numbers to measure overall efficiency. The Tigers also ranked 14th in scoring defense, 13th in passing defense and 10th in total defense. Each of those rankings will likely improve after the impressive performance on Saturday.
Clemson has the third-best chance among undefeated Power 5 teams to win its remaining games at 13.2 percent, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. With the 43rd-toughest schedule remaining, only Iowa, Michigan State and Florida State have easier paths among those teams. Take away Florida State, which heads to Clemson Memorial Stadium on Nov. 7, and the Tigers’ four remaining opponents have a 14-15 record on the season. Even what’s typically an intense and meaningful rivalry game at the end of year with South Carolina now looks like a sure win for the Tigers.
Combining the resume already produced and the remaining schedule for the Tigers, they not only have a case as the No. 1 team in the nation, but they also should be considered one of the safest bets to be one of the final four in the College Football Playoff.
Dabo Swinney has taken a program that was once mimicked for its inability to consistently beat inferior opponents and turned it into a team that’s become a mainstay as one of the top contenders in college football year after year.