Clemson has a luxury that very few teams in college football have. They don’t have to play well to win and win big. Clemson won 47-21 against Syracuse Saturday.
Some Tiger fans bristled when I suggested the final score wasn’t as close as the game indicated, but the fact is that’s exactly how closer than expected games occur. Heavy underdogs are the beneficiary of sloppy play by the favored team.
In attendance, I got a first hand look at this effort. Clemson appeared razer sharp jumping out to 17-0 lead, and it looked like the Clemson was going to cover the 45 point spread by half time. Slowly Syracuse with several assists from Clemson and milking of the play clock worked themselves back into the game.
Syracuse blocks a punt – 20 yard drive to make it 17-7. Clemson throws a pick 6, and it’s 24-14 at the half. Then Clemson goes punt, punt, punt on their first 3 possessions of the 3rd quarter, while Syracuse scores on busted coverage on an 83 yard pass. With under a minute left in the 3rd qtr and the ball, Syracuse, however unlikely, was in the game. For a few moments there was concern in the stadium.
Then Clemson’s defense forces a fumble returns it for TD, and pulls away for a win for a final score closer to what most expected.
So is it something for Clemson to be concerned about or not?
Well this doesn’t change anything about Clemson’s potential this season. They can absolutely win the national title. Only Alabama and maybe Ohio State can bring anything close to Clemson can do on the field. The pick 6 was a bit of a fluky play and nobody worries about Trevor Lawrence. The blocked punt today and FG block against Miami are fixable special teams issues. This isn’t a chronic issue ala a Georgia Tech.
Where I do have a bit of concern is more subtle. Who is the 2nd receiver on offense after Amari Rodgers, and does Clemson feel comfortable at RB behind Travis Etienne?
When Etienne wasn’t on the field in the 3rd quarter Saturday, the offense sputtered. If Amari Rodgers isn’t making plays in the passing game, Clemson is still waiting on that consistent 2nd receiver. No other receiver had more than 45 yards today, and this is with a QB the caliber of Lawrence back there.
Clemson seemed to spread the ball around well against Georgia Tech last week, but that appears to be more due to a Jacket team that is a total defensive wreck.
Through 6 games, Clemson doesn’t have a single receiver over 250 yards receiving, or 2nd runner with over 100 yards in TOTAL.
Today’s result is not a cause for alarm in anyway, but the Tigers need to find at least one other offensive threat as they zero in on the playoffs.