Beating an SEC team would validate Clemson's 2012 success

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on the sidelines during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on the sidelines during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Boyd, Freeman ready to get back at it

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— Late last Saturday night, the chant broke out in the northwest corner of Memorial Stadium.

“SEC! SEC! SEC!”

It was the one chant Clemson fans who had packed the stadium for the Tigers’ first night game in over two years didn’t want to hear.

South Carolina 27, Clemson 17 was another opportunity for the program’s critics to remind Dabo Swinney and Co. that they hadn’t arrived yet. Another night where great defense and smashmouth football beat flash, the Tigers’ fourth consecutive loss to their rivals.

It makes Clemson’s New Year’s Eve date in Atlanta all that much more important.

While the Tigers finished just short of a BCS bowl bid, their trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl will be against a talented SEC team in No.9 LSU, another chance to change national perception.

Like it or not, the SEC remains the gold standard for college football. The league boasts the last six BCS national champions – Texas’ 41-38 win over Southern California in 2005 was the last non-SEC champ.

Alabama can make it seven with a win over Notre Dame Jan. 7; the Crimson Tide’s scintillating 32-28 SEC Championship win over Georgia was a de facto national semifinal.

Beating an SEC team in the ATL would cap Clemson’s first 11-win season since 1981’s national title season and build momentum for 2013.

It’s also the only way left to validate 2012’s success to those who argue it was built on the back of a weak ACC.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher railed about their one-loss teams being ranked below two-loss teams in the BCS standings, a phenomenon largely due to the ACC’s weaknesses.

Five of the Tigers’ 10 wins came against bowl-eligible teams – Ball State, Duke, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Virginia Tech – but only Ball State finished with more than seven wins. Georgia Tech required a special waiver from the NCAA to qualify with a 6-7 record after qualifying for – and losing – the ACC title game due to Miami and North Carolina’s bowl bans.

Clemson opened the season in Atlanta with a 26-19 win over SEC foe Auburn, but that loss looked worse by the week as AU collapsed in a disastrous 3-9 season that cost coach Gene Chizik his job.

The Tigers lost both their games against top-25 teams in Florida State and South Carolina.

Swinney has said repeatedly over the past four years that he wants to establish his program as one of the nation’s best, and the best way to do that is by beating SEC foes.

The Tigers are 4-5 against SEC teams in his tenure, with a win over South Carolina, two over Auburn and one over Kentucky.

Clemson lives in the SEC footprint and regularly recruits against SEC teams.

Winning in Atlanta – or in the 2013 season opener against Georgia – would send a message that Clemson is not to be taken lightly.

In other words, there’s more on the line New Year’s Eve than chicken sandwiches.

© 2012 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 13

TigerNE writes:

Beating LSU as a primer for the opening of 2013 is no doubt huge. But, being seriously in the game until the end is equally important. The past two years most fans who watch honestly feel like they are watching a team that just crumbles. Or gives up. Whatever the case, they can clearly play below their talent level.

Not only must the players step it up, but coaches, in particular Morris, must leverage every ounce of ability out of the offense. Play calls must keep LSU on their toes at a minimum.

When die hard fans clad in near total orange are seen going for the exits early in the 4th quarter, you know your team isn't in the game.

waran writes:

I doubt we are physical enough to beat a good SEC Team. Against a good defense, Tajh gets flustered and our defense is ineffective. This has happened over and over again. Sadly, this is a bad matchup for Clemson.

TigerNE writes:

in response to waran:

I doubt we are physical enough to beat a good SEC Team. Against a good defense, Tajh gets flustered and our defense is ineffective. This has happened over and over again. Sadly, this is a bad matchup for Clemson.

One argument is that the problem is the combination of Boyd plus the OC and play calls. Boyd does get overwhelmed, but he can still come back as he has at times this season. In the SC game he was never given some breathing room to find a way out of his mental hole. It's a gamble, but calling a mix of plays especially including some quick no-huddle and screen options gives him a chance to pick up tempo and get back up psychologically. With LSU play calling to oversome their front line is even more critical.

Bigboots writes:

Here's to something other than repeated handoffs up the middle.

TigerNE writes:

in response to Bigboots:

Here's to something other than repeated handoffs up the middle.

Agreed. That's exactly my point earlier. Mix up the calls and give Boyd and squad something to feel good about, even if it is just as small as getting the 3rd down conversion. Which isn't really that small when you get so few.....

We've proven we can go fast play and when we play against a strong DL how else to you take some of the advantage away??? You make it matter less!!

waran writes:

I realy hope it does not happen, but if we lose to LSU and to GA next year, what is the probability that Chad Kelly will play next year?

beckel writes:

trick plays do not beat strong,tough, fast football teams. Our offence looks great against ACC lightweights. The only chance we have against LSU is to have smash-mouth practice sessions every day until the bowl. Maybe we can get tough enough to stay with LSU. Otherwise there will be no orange in the stands in the fourth quarter. We may get some players hurt in practice but that would be better than getting run off the field in Atlanta. Tough talent beats soft talent every time.

TUN writes:

The lack of national respect for Clemson was palpable tonight on ESPN's Bowl show and to be honest it is, in a sense, justified. Our beloved Tigers simply have not proven that they can win the big game when everything is on the line. LSU has played the current national champion about as good as you can play without winning and that is a huge advantage. I hate to say this because I am a Tiger through and through but we are not ready for the level of physicality LSU will bring. Maybe in a year or two we will be on the defensive side of things but right now, if we are honest, we cannot match up with these guys. They are playing on another level. The skill we have at the special positions of WR, RB, QB etc. I think will make little difference unless we can win the battle on the line of scrimmage.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to TUN:

The lack of national respect for Clemson was palpable tonight on ESPN's Bowl show and to be honest it is, in a sense, justified. Our beloved Tigers simply have not proven that they can win the big game when everything is on the line. LSU has played the current national champion about as good as you can play without winning and that is a huge advantage. I hate to say this because I am a Tiger through and through but we are not ready for the level of physicality LSU will bring. Maybe in a year or two we will be on the defensive side of things but right now, if we are honest, we cannot match up with these guys. They are playing on another level. The skill we have at the special positions of WR, RB, QB etc. I think will make little difference unless we can win the battle on the line of scrimmage.

Agreed, but why is it taking so long for us to get to this level of play? We have been playing this way for 20 yrs.

Xander5000 writes:

in response to beckel:

trick plays do not beat strong,tough, fast football teams. Our offence looks great against ACC lightweights. The only chance we have against LSU is to have smash-mouth practice sessions every day until the bowl. Maybe we can get tough enough to stay with LSU. Otherwise there will be no orange in the stands in the fourth quarter. We may get some players hurt in practice but that would be better than getting run off the field in Atlanta. Tough talent beats soft talent every time.

Well, I don't see us getting creamed in this one like we did in the Orange Bowl. We are going to have to MAN UP bottom line. Also bottom line is that it don't matter what conference we play in or what conference we play against. We have to play to win. We are going to have to get our strength up and our bodies strong for this one though. If we get to LSU's QB enough he can get rattled, thats been seen. They have a bruising RB, so we have to WRAP UP and SQUEEZE to get him down. LSU has speed and strength on defense so we are just going to have to MAN UP and take to them heavy an hard in all phases. Lets go CLEMSON.....ROAR like REAL TIGERS from here on out. MAKE A STATEMENT TO ALL OF THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL WORLD ABOUT WHO WE ARE AND WIN THIS THING.

JSBCharleston writes:

Playing in the ACC doesn't do anything to help us when we play quality teams. I can't remember the last real quality win we had and no I don't count the ACCCG last year against a mediocre VT team. The two weeks of bowl practice will not fix what ails this program as we go to play LSU>

Bigboots writes:

in response to JSBCharleston:

Playing in the ACC doesn't do anything to help us when we play quality teams. I can't remember the last real quality win we had and no I don't count the ACCCG last year against a mediocre VT team. The two weeks of bowl practice will not fix what ails this program as we go to play LSU>

But if we beat LSU, would that get the frown off your face?
I am not crazy about the ACC, either. But if I write a check for a $50 million exit fee, I think it would probably bounce. So.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

The 50,000,000.00 will not hold up. We should be planning an exit strategy. The ACC is a basketball conference and as long as a UNC Alum is in charge it will stay that way.

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