Clemson Football Puts A Bigger Target on Its Back After Win Over UGA

By Colby Lanham
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Clemson Tigers outlasted the Georgia Bulldogs 38-35. No “Clemsoning” moment appeared (look that up in the urban dictionary if you’d like).

Three days later, the Tigers jumped to No. 4 in the AP Poll thanks to their Saturday performance. Now everyone will try to sit back and wait for that “Clemsonsing” moment to appear. But this might be a different Clemson team that won’t have any hiccups and perform the way it did in 2012 by not losing any of the games it was supposed to win.

Only this time, the target on their back increased in a similar fashion to their rise in the rankings. That can happen after beating both LSU and Georgia in back-to-back top-10 SEC victories. And the Clemson of the past has been known to wilt under pressure like this. But the program’s head coach Dabo Swinney is building looks to redefine the concept of Clemsoning.

But what’s the biggest difference in those teams and this one?

To start off, this team has an invaluable commodity in quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has stepped up these last three seasons to become the leader of this team. Boyd has taken this offense to new heights under offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chad Morris and continues to make displays worthy of Heisman consideration. Boyd does not press or panic when the Tigers are down, and just continues to play his game at a high level. And it helps to have weapons at receiver like Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and Adam Humphries, along with veterans like Rod McDowell, who provide experience to the younger parts of the Clemson roster

This team is already playing with a large chip on their shoulders. And this team has proven themselves against the likes of SEC teams such as LSU and Georgia. Being ranked just below the top dogs of Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State speaks volumes of just how far this team could go in 2013.

Their defense proved it can get pressure with its front seven, and its offense is still among the best in the nation as McDowell showed he is ready to carry the running game, and that their passing game is still as dangerous as it was last season despite the loss of Deandre Hopkins and Jaron Brown.

The Clemson’s of 2007 and 2008, while they had talent, never had a true leader on either side of the ball, nor did they have a head coach who had the same kind of conviction that Swinney has. He doesn’t bite his nails or chew grass in critical moments, nor does he shrink away from big-time opponents. Swinney has proven that, unlike former head coach Tommy Bowden, he can coach in a big game and develop his players and build a coaching staff that can put them in the best positions to succeed. Clemson is firmly establishing itself as the pinnacle of the ACC once again, and it’s on the verge of bringing more glory to a conference that hasn’t had this kind of success in the last decade.

Clemson was waiting for opportunities to prove themselves, and they came in the form of LSU and Georgia. And twice Clemson proved themselves. Now everyone knows that this team can’t be underestimated. Now it’s up to the Tigers to prove themselves 11 more times in 2013.

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