Kinda been waiting for Clemson to crumble …
Forget the feigned shock and awe by the college football-following masses over Pittsburgh’s 43-42 win Saturday afternoon against the nation’s No. 2 team. This seemed a fait accompli from the opening kickoff of 2016. Seriously.
The Tigers struggled against Auburn, barely survived vs. Troy, somehow slipped by Louisville, beat N.C. State in overtime after the visiting Wolfpack missed a “gimme” FG at the end of regulation and outlasted Florida State two weeks ago.
Yeah, there is something to be said for gutting it out and winning close games. But as the exception, not the norm. Pitt just happened to be the latest in a long line of too-close-for-comfort outings, ultimately not affording another win by the hair of their chinny chin chins for the Tigers.
This was hardly an encore performance by Dabo Swinney’s squad to the nonstop ovation-worthy effort it gave last season in reaching the national title game and giving Alabama all it could handle.
Now 9-1, courtesy of Chris Blewitt kicking the up-and-down 6-4 Panthers to victory, Clemson may have a hard time repeating as a College Football Playoff entrant now. That is, of course, contingent on what it does the rest of the season, as well as the No. 1 Crimson Tide, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Washington, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Louisville.
The Buckeyes, a 62-3 winner against Maryland earlier in the day, figure to move up.
Remember the good ol’ days when everyone was talking about Clemson’s DeShaun Watson as the end-all and be-all of multi-threat quarterbacks ideally suited for the new-age NFL? Well, the 6-foot-3 junior, even while setting a school and ACC record 580 yards passing against Pitt, tossed three critical interceptions during the contest … and has been sinking down draft boards all this autumn.
Frankly, he’s a far cry from being the best QB in the conference, never mind the country. Lamar Jackson holds the first honor, and possibly the second as well – unless Washington’s Jake Browning does.
Watson’s fade from excellence is quite indicative of Clemson’s as a whole. A year ago, running back Wayne Gallman was racking up a school-record, 1,527 rushing yards. Yesterday, he was held to 36 yards on 18 carries, leaving him far shy of even half of last season’s total with just two regular-season games left to play.
The defense wasn’t exactly lights out in 2015. But it didn’t show the sieve-like qualities, especially with a game on the line, that it displayed as Pitt cruised downfield in the final minute for the winning score, either.
Are the Tigers out of the CFP hunt already? Technically, no. Theoretically, though, they seemed to be from the first snap of 2016.