Dabo Swinney pictured in 2015, photo by Getty Images
Clemson’s football program achieved something that very few have last season, perfection. Of those few that have been perfect, none had done it by way of 15-0. Not in the modern era anyways. You’d need to go back more than a century to find the last 15-0 team.
Last week, a picture now hanging in the Tigers weight room started making the rounds on social media. It symbolizes the Tigers run to perfection last season, summing up 2018 rather nicely, while also serving as a reminder for this 2019 team.
2018 was a season that won’t soon be forgotten, and not just for the Clemson fan base. The Tigers 44-16 throttling of Alabama that put a bow on the perfect season, ensured it will be a season the national pundits won’t likely soon forget either.
The Tigers start the 2019 season as the hunted instead of the hunter. For the first time in history, they are the preseason number one in the Coaches Poll. So what can this team do for an encore?
It doesn’t take a whole lot of scouring of the many fan pages scattered across social media, or the message boards to see where a large portion of the fan base has set their 2019 expectations. Many are thinking another 15-0 run and another national title.
With the talent on this team and despite having to replace most of the front seven on the defensive side, it’s not that far fetched to think it could happen again. With their schedule, it seems as if complacency might be their biggest threat. This coaching staff is one of the best in the business and know what buttons to push in an effort to not let that happen.
Having said all that, there’s a reason you don’t see many thirty game winning streaks in college football. It’s an extremely difficult feat to pull off, regardless of schedule. We are talking about 18-22 year old kids after all, and on this roster, almost 70% fall into that 18-20 range. Add in potential injuries, as well as the law of averages, and we’re just scratching the surface of things that could derail perfection.
All that to say, be careful not to get to carried away with expectations. This team is without question, talented enough to make a similar run as last season, but it’s probably just as likely to have a hiccup somewhere along the way. Especially early on while these younger guys are settling in to their new roles.
This is a young team, and on the defensive side there’s also some inexperience throughout the two deep as well. Some guys will be learning on the job. Even some of the guys that have played key reserve roles, they’ll still be learning how to be the guy instead of backing up the guy. Just remember, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And it’s about how you finish, not how you start, and it’s all about hoisting that trophy at the end of the season, perfect or not.