Not since the days of Chris Weinke, Peter Warrick, Travis Minor, and the 1999 Florida State Seminoles has a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference won the national championship. In 2013, a lot of folks are looking toward junior WR Sammy Watkins and the Clemson Tigers to cement themselves in history and change that statistic, and they very well could. In addition to looking to the 2013 Tigers squad to accomplish this, much of those same people–mostly the Clemson fan base–are hoping that the wideout can return to 2011 form and bring home the coveted Heisman Trohpy as well.
While he doesn’t necessarily have to win the award for Clemson to have a shot at playing for the crystal ball next January, Watkins has to be in New York for the ceremony at the very least.
The Tigers are going to open up their 2013 campaign against a Georgia Bulldogs team that will more than likely be ranked in the Top-Five in both polls to begin the year. While I’ve already seen people with–what I would certainly have to assume is–short-term memory loss only put the ACC-SEC pieces together and write Clemson off before the game even starts, the Tigers shouldn’t be pushed to the side so easily.
Maybe it’s not the memory loss. Maybe, because it was the last bowl game played on New Year’s Eve, some people had a few too many hop-filled drinks at that point to remember, but the Clemson Tigers have shown that they have what it takes to take down an SEC power.
Clemson shocked the nation last year when they walked into the Chick Fil-A Bowl against the LSU Tigers and walked out 25-24 winners. They were able to do this with consistency on both sides of the ball and smart decisions on the field.
You know what was the smartest decision on the field that night? Throwing the ball to now-Houston Texans receiver De’Andre Hopkins 13 times for 191 yards. Taking over Hopkins’ slot this season, Watkins needs to replicate this effort throughout the year, especially against the Georgia’s, Florida State’s, and South Carolina‘s of the world.
It’s virtually a known fact that Heisman voters look closest at the performances in big games. Generally, a Heisman voter isn’t going to look at numbers that Watkins puts up against a Duke or Wake Forest and proclaim, “Hey, this guy right here, best football player I’ve seen this year!” It just simply doesn’t work that way.
There is not a doubt that Clemson can be the one to end the SEC’s streak of national championship dominance. With a wealth of athletic talent on both sides of the ball to complement what Watkins brings to the table, the Tigers can certainly bring the prize home to South Carolina.
But in the end, a Heisman-worthy performance from Watkins is going to be what leads them down that path.