Clemson was taken to the brink by North Carolina on Saturday. The close game and UNC’s late drive to nearly win the game has some wondering if Clemson has the toughness this season to make it through the College Football Playoff again.
The Tigers opened as 27.5 favorites over the Tar Heels at Bovada Sports, so winning by a failed two-point conversion would be cause for worry. Prior to the game, Clemson was averaging just under 525 yards per game and 42 points. But the Tar Heels held them to just 206 passing yards and 132 rushing. For some schools, 338 total yards is good, for Clemson it’s
a bit lackluster. Syracuse’s defense held them in check as well, and made Clemson look pedestrian at times on offense in the Dome.
Meanwhile, UNC’s Sam Howell went 15 for 27, putting up 144 yards and two TDs and the backfield combined for 151 rushing yards on the Tigers defense. Was this just a fluke game where the Tigers timing was a bit off and they were only firing on three cylinders? Were the Heels just particularly fired up and having a great game? Are the Heels just better than we all thought, or is Clemson not as tough as we had assumed?
The AP and the Coaches Poll both thought it was enough to drop Clemson from the top spot in the rankings. We’ll also get to know more as the Tigers face more of their schedule. Florida State comes to Death Valley on October 12th. The Noles just got a decisive victory over NC State. In Week 4 they got a win over Louisville, meaning FSU is on a rare 2-game ACC win streak. But they have looked awful earlier in the year, losing to Virginia, Boise State, and nearly were upset by LA-Monroe.
Clemson may still run the table in the ACC, since they may not face many ranked teams. But nearly losing to UNC and Trevor Lawrence’s inconsistent campaign is enough to make critics wonder if the Tigers are as mighty as we thought. They have FSU, Boston College, Wofford, NC State, #22 Wake Forest and then South Carolina. Is the toughest game left on the Tigers schedule is Wake Forest?
The Demon Deacons are 5-0 heading into Week 6, but they get to take a rest with their bye and jump back into the action on October 12th against Louisville. The Tigers could make it through the ACC unscathed, but the bar is set at championships now. Can they beat Alabama again, or Ohio State or Georgia? For that matter, based on Week 5, could they beat
They have the talent to win it all again. But the ACC may not be the best crucible to test them weekly throughout the season. But there is a lot of hard-nosed competition outside of the ACC this year, so if they take it for granted, they’ll get a wake-up call in the playoffs.