Clemson Football: Hard Truths, and Untruths, About Preseason Polls

There are those among us that say polls don’t matter and ultimately they don’t but in one way they set the course for the entire season.

The higher a team is ranked in these meaningless preseason polls, the more the desired narrative is achieved. I can almost hear the crowing about how dominant the SEC is by having 10 teams in the Top-15. Unfairly, it creates an obvious misperception that few teams can compete against the SEC. It’s tiresome and frustrating, but expected.

It’s here, the untruths start. In this social media obsessed arena where we all live, any person with a smartphone can create a platform and produce their own virtual universe to offer their opinion as real analysis. The favorite subject of these personal universes, these emotionally skewed polls. Heck, I’ve even offered a few such pieces.

Now for the truths. I’ve said, to the point of nausea, perception, to the intellectually lazy is more important than reality. These polls, often presented as fact based analysis, are less informative than a grocery list scribbled on the back of an envelope. However, they’re touted as legitimate. They are what they are, meaningless ramblings.

Any three people can read the same exact sentence and arrive at three different conclusions. All based on the angle, the slant, from which the sentence was read and what each believes is being read. And most importantly, what they want the sentence to say. That’s another hard truth of these early polls, in my opinion.

Throughout this preseason, I’ve read hundreds of Way Too Early rankings and depending on the day, the windspeed and the relative humidity, Clemson could be ranked anywhere from being No.1 in one poll, No. 4 in another and No.11 in another. A sad truth, many, me included, fall for these clickbait motivated stories, and it can maddening. I know this well as a struggling writer, I face such clickbait schemes everyday.

Two truths temporarily soothe the madness. One painful and one hopeful. The painful first, a team is only as good as it’s last season. Despite winning 10 games, most folks not wearing orange, aren’t inclined to give Clemson much in the way of the benefit of the doubt. The Tigers burnt those bridges last year. They don’t concern themselves with the why’s only the end results.

Truth is, last season was the ugliest, most shocking and troubling 10-win season for Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers. Some cry that the fan base is spoiled but any honest fan, while grateful, knows these words are truthful. Yes folks, it was really that bad. So objectively, I understand the lower rankings. Heck, in some ways, I’m shocked Clemson is even in the Top-15.

The second fact, the hopeful one, is that it’s ultimately about what happens on the field. Even biased pollsters see and respect when any team begins to prove themselves through it’s on the field effort and not the mere assemblage of words from others. I believe the cream always rises to the top and whether or not Swinney’s Tigers are cream is yet to be seen. We’ve got roughly 140 days to wait and to read another 50 preseason polls. It should be interesting but mind numbing.

It’s not my intention to fuel a paranoia driven narrative that ESPN, and the media in general, has an overt agenda to keep Clemson down. However, it’s obvious Swinney and Clemson are no longer the media darlings, the consummate underdog and the feel good story the Tigers were at the beginning of their run.

Now, Clemson is comfortably back where they believe the Tigers belong, but take heart, Clemson has a way of doing exactly what others doubt they can do. Now that’s the real truth and 2022 might just be the season that catapults the Tigers back, if they ever really left, to the top echelon of college football.

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