I know that right now it seems like the sky is falling for Clemson fans, but the season is not over. Yes, every Clemson fan was shocked with the performance of their team Saturday night against Florida State, and for the majority of the game it looked like a JV team disguised as the No. 3 team in the country. Clemson turned the ball over, did not execute, and got dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The safeties for the Tigers were a concern going into the game and became even more of a problem by the time the final whistle blew in Death Valley. The coaching staff did not make the proper adjustments, and it became apparent that this staff needs to put more of an emphasis on recruiting offensive and defensive linemen in future recruiting cycles. I know that the blowout loss to Florida State will give some Clemson fans flashbacks of the 2000 Florida State game and the 2012 Orange Bowl, but it does not matter what Clemson has done. The only thing that matters now is how the Tigers respond and how they move forward as a team.
Clemson still has plenty to play for this season, and the loss to Florida State cannot result in the loss of this season. A dream of a national championship, an ACC championship, ACC Player of the Year, and a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony are now gone, but this can still be a successful season for the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers are still ranked in the top 10 of every poll, including No. 9 in the BCS, which means that if the Tigers win out then they could receive an at-large BCS bid. In my opinion, a possible trip to the Sugar Bowl would be a great season for Clemson.
From 1986-1991, Clemson finished ranked in the AP top-25 each season. However, the program fell on hard times after this great stretch and stumbled over the next two decades. If Clemson can finish this season ranked, which they should, then it would mark the first time since the 1986-1991 stretch that the Tigers would have finished the season ranked in the final AP poll for three consecutive seasons. Despite the loss to the Seminoles, this program has come a long way from the down years of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Clemson can still finish with a very good final record. If the Tigers win out, then they could finish with back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history and only the fifth time overall. Clemson has also not had three straight seasons of at least 10-wins since winning four straight from 1987-1990. The Tigers could have three straight 10-plus win seasons with four more victories this year.
Clemson’s best three-year run in ACC play was from 1981-1983. The Tigers won 19 ACC games during those three years, while never dropping a game. In 2011 Clemson finished with six ACC wins and seven in 2012. If the Tigers can finish this season with another 7-1 ACC record, then it would give the Tigers 20 ACC wins over a three-year span, their best run ever. This year’s Clemson team can also become only the third Clemson team ever to win seven ACC games in one season. All of these numbers are great, but the Tigers must right the ship and get back on the winning track in order to accomplish these goals.
Perhaps more important than any of these records and numbers is the showdown that looms on the final Saturday of November. The battle for the Palmetto State between South Carolina and Clemson has become one of the most bitter and intense rivalries in college football. Last season marked only the second time, and first time since 1951-1954, that South Carolina defeated Clemson four years in a row. The Gamecocks have never beaten the Tigers five years in a row but will have their opportunity to accomplish that in Columbia, SC at the end of this year. Clemson has historically dominated the series but will need to improve on the offensive line in order to regain the title of Best in the Palmetto State.
The loss to Florida State hurts for Clemson fans, but the Tigers still have a great chance to have a memorable season. Clemson has back-to-back road games at Maryland and Virginia before they have a bye week to prepare for Georgia Tech’s visit.
Travis Patterson, Writer For ACC Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20. https://twitter.com/tpat20