How does the team deal with all the national attention?
CLEMSON — The Bowl Championship Series gets plenty of flak from college football fans, and rightfully so.
The bowl system is corrupt. Wasteful. And it obstinately blocks the way for a true college football playoff which would earn schools millions of dollars more and ultimately benefit all student-athletes.
Sometimes, though, it can still be fun.
Ask any Clemson fan who was watching football Saturday night.
In a two-hour span, their team’s hopes of making the BCS national title game gained serious traction, hours after No.7 Clemson had completed a 59-38 rout of North Carolina.
In East Lansing, Mich., Michigan State capped off perhaps the season’s best game with a Hail Mary game-winning pass to beat BCS No.6 Wisconsin, with an assist from replay, no less.
Two hours later, Texas Tech completed an equally stunning 41-38 win over BCS No.3 Oklahoma, building a 31-7 and holding on to hand the Sooners their first home loss since 2005.
Suddenly, two major obstacles to BCS glory were removed, and Clemson fans could start to dream seriously.
When the new BCS rankings were released Sunday night, the Tigers made a significant jump to No. 5, leaving New Orleans – site of the title game –within reach, as long as they take care of business.
That’s the joy of the BCS: the national title picture can change in a matter of hours.
Entering Saturday, the Tigers were stuck behind unbeatens LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Wisconsin in the BCS standings.
With Oklahoma and Wisconsin out of the way, Clemson now must find a way to pass Boise State and hope the Sooners (or someone else) can take out Oklahoma State. Alabama and LSU will meet in primetime Nov. 5, causing natural unbeaten attrition.
It’s still difficult to imagine Clemson on Bourbon Street in early January, but the road certainly got easier.
Now, the Tigers must take care of their own business, which is in no way a breeze. Georgia Tech is reeling, but Clemson hasn’t won in Atlanta since 2001. And even though Kevin Steele slowed down Tech’s flexbone option last year in a 27-13 win, it has been kryptonite to his defense (as are mobile quarterbacks like Tevin Washington).
Wake Forest, which visits Nov.12, is much-improved, and certainly, the trip to Columbia for the annual rivalry meeting with South Carolina, Marcus Lattimore or not, will be no picnic.
And then the ACC title game in Charlotte – and a shot at Clemson’s first league title in 20 years – would loom.
As we learned Saturday night, it’s far too early to book plane flights or hotel rooms. We do know that this team is exciting, and can outscore anyone, anytime.
Dabo Swinney has repeatedly said that he’ll only focus on the standings in early December, and that’s the right move for his team, considering its history of losing games it shouldn’t.
Clemson fans, however, found it hard not to get excited flipping channels Saturday night.
Guess it is possible to find joy in the BCS.