Clemson enjoying success, but hurdles remain
Posted January 4, 2014
The Orange Bowl was transformed into "Bad Perceptions Beyond Thunderdome" on Friday night. Both Clemson and Ohio State entered, but only one program could leave without its season being labeled a failure.
The Tigers hadn't beaten a good team since August. Getting smoked by Florida State on national television and handled by South Carolina at the end of the regular season made the victory over Georgia a distant memory.
Despite a landmark win over LSU in last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl that gave the program its first 11-win season since 1981, Clemson was still haunted by a horrific loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl two years ago. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were cast as BCS pretenders who feasted on weak opponents to fatten their undefeated regular season.
In an ironic twist, Clemson and Ohio State needed a win over the other to legitimize their 2013 campaigns.
Clemson's 40-35 victory over Ohio State had so many narrative changes throughout the course of the game that fans might have suffered whiplash. When the Tigers built up an early lead, the Buckeyes were supposedly exposed as the frauds so many believed them to be. After Ohio State came back, everyone was convinced another episode of "Clemsoning" was taking place.
With the win, Dabo Swinney finally gets proper recognition for turning Clemson back into a national contender in just three seasons and avoids the sort of hot sports take that'll make your eyes roll.
As good as Clemson has been under Swinney, the Tigers still have a few hurdles to jump. Getting into the national championship picture is the obvious one, but there is a an obstacle within their state they'll eventually have to get past if Clemson ever wants to upgrade their postseason hardware.
Consistently getting the best of Steve Spurrier.
The Ol' Ball Coach owns a five game winning streak over Clemson and he doesn't mind reminding everyone about that fact. Following South Carolina's victory over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, Spurrier said winning back-to-back New Year's Day games was nice, but "winning that state championship ain't bad either."
To Swinney's credit, he's acutely aware of the shadow Spurrier casts over his success and did his best to jab back after the Orange Bowl.
Well played, Dabo. But when you come at the king of smack, you best not miss next time.