As Clemson’s historic football season rolls on, the Tigers are becoming America’s Team. By the time the game clock hit triple-zeroes in the 59-38 win over North Carolina, they’d earned the respect of former Florida coach and two-time national champion Urban Meyer. Emerging as the best college football analyst on television, Meyer said that an undefeated regular season virtually guarantees Clemson another shot at the national title.
Reflecting on the honoring of the 1981 championship team at Saturday’s game, Columbia sports reporter Drew Stewart said those Tigers are ready for a new team of standard-bearers. “[I]n 2008 when Dabo was named Clemson’s head coach, I remember the numerous comparison’s to Danny Ford such to the point when I produced a story on the comparisons between Coach Ford and Coach Swinney, Coach Ford was so tired of hearing about them, he refused to take part in my story.”
Why not this team? “We have been special before and we will be special again,” CU head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They are enjoying our team. Even though our style might be different, hopefully we can get the same results. Who knows how good we can be? I don’t know if they knew how good they would be at this time.”
Wisconsin and Oklahoma have dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten. Only one team can emerge from the SEC and Big XII without a loss, while Boise State hasn’t, and won’t come close, to being tested like the Tigers have. In the event there are more than two unbeaten teams after the conference championships, Clemson’s got the advantage.
You just need to tune in any Saturday this season, and you’ll see the most exciting team in college football. For three quarters yesterday, UNC outscored Clemson 31-24. A 35-7 third-quarter hammering of the Tar Heels was the difference, aided by one of two touchdowns by defensive end Kourtnei Brown. Incidentally, Brown became the first CU defensive player to score two touchdowns in one game in 57 years, and it’s the first time Clemson’s put that many points up in one quarter since –guess when???–Oct. 31, 1981 against Wake Forest.
Dropping 50-plus points on teams in consecutive weeks, the Tiger offense is arguably the most explosive in the game right now. And unlike the punitive way Steve Spurrier’s Florida teams would do it, Clemson seems more like Gen. George Patton, going hell-bent toward its objective.
It may be a cliche, but these Tigers are hungry. Just ask the quarterback. “We got the potential for this to be a great season, but we are not finished yet,” Tajh Boyd said. It’s good to see that Clemson’s “Crown Jewel” is still grounded in reality, especially with the growing “Heisman-Hype” I watched hatch last night on ESPN.
Don’t misunderstand ME either. I know that Clemson could get their asses whipped in Atlanta next weekend. Lord knows I’ve seen that before. And if anyone can ramble around and WRECK an 8-Game winning streak, the Yellow Jackets have been there. Done that. Clemson is FAR from perfection. To be sure, the game this weekend punctuated some patent defects: The defensive backs make mistakes they should not, and opposing offenses are practically spotted 21 points at kickoff.
Notwithstanding those probs, Saturday revealed that the D could give it back just as tough, forcing six turnovers and Brown’s two touchdowns. It takes big risks to make big plays, and the Tigers are willing to take the risks they need to win.
“We’ve been working for two years to develop a mentality to handle adversity and success. There have only been four 8-0 teams in the history of Clemson football,” Swinney said. “It’s a special time to be a Clemson Tiger. We have to learn from this tape and just keep doing what we do. We have to empty the tank this week in practice and then leave it all on the field at Georgia Tech.”
Win or lose Saturday Night in Atlanta, this Tiger couldn’t be more proud. As a Clemson Alumnus, I am walking around with a new pep in my step, and pride in my stride. I know it’s silly in the grand scheme of things, but The 2011 Tiger Football Program is the wind behind my back this Fall and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Everything that people love about college football is on display on Frank Howard Field. If you haven’t been paying attention this season, you ought to. Being a part of America’s Team is too much fun not to be shared with everyone.
by J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr , an Attorney licensed to practice in South Carolina, California &The District of Columbia. He received his BA in 1985 from Clemson University and his JD in 1988 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.