Not many expected Clemson to be here. Actually no one did. Not even the fans. To understand Clemson and how they got here, you have to understand a little bit of the football program. Believe it or not, Clemson fans have a very high expectation of the football team. They expect a national title contender every year ala Alabama, Ohio St, Texas, and that whole bunch. State rival USC makes it a running joke that Clemson is still living in 1981. Thats of course the year Clemson won the National Championship. The Tigers have never sniffed a national championship since then. The Tigers have not been terrible during that time, just not championship calibur. They always seem to have the talent to make a national championship even playing in the ACC. Clemson has been able to recruit very well the last 10 or so years. But for whatever the reason, whether it be intangibles or having one more or so elite players Clemson has not reached a big time bowl….until now.
2 years ago Clemson almost appeared in a BCS title game. They lost to Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game. Last year, Clemson struggled to make a bowl game with 6 wins and were defeated by South Florida. Instead of progressing after an ACC championship appearance the Tigers took a step back. And Dabo Swinney was on the hotseat even with a top 20 recruiting class. Hiring Chad Morris as new offensive coordinator and some other assistants, Clemson fans were looking at this as a rebuilding year whereas Dabo was playing for his job.Coach Swinney I think knows hes not a x’s and o’s type coach so he went out got a top assistant in Morris and surrounded himself with football savy guys. Keeping Kevin Steele as defensive corrdinator was big, he is going to be a head coach one day more than likely. So the head coach took a step back and became more of a motivator this season to his young football team letting his assistants do the diry work. Dabo saying he was “all-in” at a press conference told fans that it was all or nothing for this years 2011 campaign. He claimed 27 or more freshman would play and contribute to this years team, and they have. You already know one of those freshman. Wideout Sammy Watkins burst onto the scene and was crucial to the success of the Orange and white. But also the development of quarterback Tajh Boyd was just as big. Boyd was highly touted and expected to be part of the “rebuiiding” season, but after a 8-0 season fans were thinking “championship.” Clemson defeated the defending national champion Auburn, including 2 other ranked teams in that streak. Losing road games down the stretch to Georgia Tech, NcSt, and rival USC Clemson still ended the year with 9 wins and a birth into the ACC championship game. Nine wins was way more than anyone had predicted, even some of those rabid fans in Tigertown that seem to think they are of a higher status. After drubbing Virginia Tech, it was a birth in a BCS bowl and matchup with West Virginia. The young Tigers believed in thier coach, bought into the system, and all the other intagibles it takes to keep a level headed attitude about winning at a high level.
The makeup of this team is quite similar to that of thier opponent, West Virginia. Lots of offense, and opportunistic defense. Clemson has freshman Sammy Watkins who changes the game at wide reciever AND special teams. Dwayne Allen at tight end is a great blocker and even better pass catcher. Boyd is efficient but needs protection. And if he is allowed to run, the offense then has another dimension. Offensive line has been up and down but mostly solid. As for the defense, no real playmakers to speak of. Usually, Clemson has a big time pass rusher but not on this team although Andre Branch has come on strong late in the year. They blitz a lot and try to take advantage of turnovers to hide thier lack of experience. Very athletic at corner with Cody Sensabaugh and Jonathan Meeks being a highlight on that side. Those guys are ballhawks. I’ll give a prediction later in the week but this I hope we could shed some light on Clemson and thier backstory. They deserve to be here and have done something quite special this season showcasing fabulous freshman and leadership in those same positions. They will showoff thier talents with the rest of the nation seeing just that on January 4th