The Clemson Tigers nearly pulled off a huge win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game last season. It would have been the perfect ending to what was an amazing season for the Tigers. While they didn’t end up pulling out a championship victory, Clemson came into the 2016 season as one of the front-runners to reach the game for the second straight season.
While they were considered a front-runner, Dabo Swinney’s football team got off to a rocky start.
Clemson opened the season by knocking off Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers by a final score of 19-13. As if that wasn’t close enough, the Tigers followed that up with a 30-24 victory over Troy in the second game of the season. It was at that moment the national media took notice of Clemson’s struggles.
Almost immediately, the panic button was pressed. Clemson was viewed as an upset candidate each and every week from that point forward, but they persevered through the struggles.
Clemson Tigers Vs. Florida State Seminoles: Bold Predictions For Week 9 Of 2016 College Football Season https://t.co/U1Z05LZqy0
— Inquisitr Sports (@InquisitrSports) October 24, 2016
In the next three weeks following the first two games of the season, the Tigers won 59-0 over South Carolina State, 26-7 over Georgia Tech, and the impressive 42-36 victory over Heisman front-runner Lamar Jackson and the No. 3-ranked Louisville Cardinals. After that win, Clemson seemed to get back on track and have been focused ever since.
There is no telling what the main issues were early on in the season. Perhaps the team was having issues dealing with the hype that had surrounded them all offseason long. Maybe it was the added expectations from the fan base and the pressure that comes with those expectations.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 22, 2016
Deshaun Watson came into the season being hyped up as one of the Heisman front-runners. He didn’t start the season as strong as many were expecting. Despite the struggles, Watson has completed 63.6 percent of his pass attempts for 1,950 yards, 20 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, while rushing for 279 yards and a touchdown.
Swinney may not be seeing his team play as dominant as they did last season, but he isn’t concerned. He hasn’t allowed his focus to waver for one second and is now focused on this week’s huge matchup against the Florida State Seminoles.
“I’m really proud of our guys for finding a way to get to 7-0,” Swinney said. “That’s where we want to be at this point. They’re just typical Florida State. They’re a very good football team. I know that this will be a huge challenge for us to go down there and do something we haven’t done there in a long time.”
— SN College Football (@sn_ncaaf) October 19, 2016
If the Tigers can find a way to go to Florida State and come out with a win, they will have a very good chance to punch their ticket to the college football playoffs. After this week’s game, the Tigers don’t have another ranked team on their schedule. There are a couple of potential trap games, but Clemson would likely end up winning out and making the postseason, although they would likely have a tough test in the ACC Championship Game.
Clemson has without question earned their way back into the championship spotlight across the nation.
At this point in the season, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are once again viewed as the front-runner to win the championship. Swinney would likely welcome a second chance at facing the Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game. There are very few matchups that would be as intriguing and entertaining as an Alabama vs. Clemson game this season.
All of that being said, Clemson has to focus on one week at a time. If they continue playing the way they have since the first couple games of the season, the Tigers could be looking at another postseason opportunity.
Do you think the Clemson Tigers are a serious championship contender this season? Will they head down to Florida State and come up with a big win this weekend? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
[Featured Image by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP Images]