Feeling more hopeful about Clemson’s chances the rest of the season may seem to some as lunacy. It’s easy to come to that conclusion but nothing this year has been easy, it’s been hard and so will the rest of this 2021 season. So, let’s take a hard look at what lies ahead.
First thing, the Tigers must continue to improve offensively. Last Saturday, the faithful saw some real signs that this unit has some fight left in them. Sure, there were blunders and foolish penalties but they weren’t enough to stop the Tigers from securing the win. In spite of the supposed evidence to the contrary, this is a prideful unit. They know what they’re facing and one has to believe their upward trend will continue.
This defense, is remarkable. In this writer’s humble opinion, it ranks among the best ever to wear the Paw. Their undaunted attitude, their unbelievable effort, their heart and spirit makes them worthy to be included in the greatest of all time discussion. They’ve taken hit after hit, spent three-fourths of every game on the field and with little help from the offense they just go about their business. They have kept this team in a position to win. Don’t expect this to change, it’s in this stellar group’s DNA. It’s who they are.
This coaching staff has been grilled to a burnt crisp and are as bewildered as are most of the fans, but they have it way tougher than even the best, most dedicated fan. Why? Because unlike the fans, they actually have to try to lead, coach and motivate a completely different type of Clemson team.
Due to injuries and a young, hesitant offense, they’ve had to adapt, re-direct, rebuild every single week. They’ve also been the recipients of a lot of ugly words hurled at them, more and more with each passing week. Sure, they’re well paid and we know, “to much is given, much is expected” but the pay doesn’t insulate them from the discontented, vocal faction of the fanbase. Plain and simple, it comes with the territory. However, they’re human. They feel the frustration and they know it’s on them to fix the issues.
That leaves three opportunities left to get the desired outcome, winning out. Connecticut, Wake Forest and South Carolina. With the first two being in Death Valley, I believe the Tigers stand a good chance at a win in each contest.
Now, the rival game against UofSC is, in the best of years, one where anything can happen and with the game in being in Columbia, it makes most feel even more uncomfortable this year. It has been a similar path, the Tigers and Gamecocks have walked and both paths strewn with potholes have led them to this matchup. This, in my best estimation, is the pivotal game for postseason opportunities. If the Tigers win, along with the other three games (Louisville, Wake Forest and Connecticut), they would finish this season with a respectable 9-3 record.
So, where does this team go from here? First to Louisville. They face a Cardinals team that has proven it can score points and on this “ACC payback tour” the Tigers find themselves engaged in, they get everybody’s best effort. Each game, is basically the opponents national championship.
However, in spite of their ability to score, the Cardinals seem to possess a certain proclivity to lack the ability to stop their opponents from scoring. They stand at 4-4 and can still play well and win. However, the Tigers know this and should be able to get win number six.
The chances of the Tigers being the Atlantic Division Champions still ride on how two other teams fare, so I won’t even go in that direction, but the Tigers will have earned a spot in a quality bowl game. A “let your hair down,” fun game. A launching pad for a great 2022 season.
Honestly, that is the best scenario for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers. This team needs to go out, have fun, turn the page and move forward. Clemson fans and the team alike are ready to move forward, never forgetting the lessons learned in 2021, but looking at 2022 as the place and time this team needs to be.
For now, this Saturday, the task at hand is to just win. By one point or ten, it doesn’t matter. The Tigers are well past the need for style points so, just take care of business. If the wins keep coming, possibilities for this team in the postseason exist and quite honestly, they would deserve it. With the extreme emotional division amongst the fans, ending on a positive note should go a long way to heal the wounds of this season. So, if everyone takes care of business, team and fans alike, the rest, as they say, will take care of itself.
Clemson and Notre Dame have released depth charts ahead of this weekend’s matchup at Death Valley.
For the second time this season, Clemson will be an underdog at home.
Despite Clemson’s astonishing loss to Miami, the Tigers will head to Raleigh next week favored over NC State.