Is Clemson elite enough for you yet?

He's back: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, here signalling during last season's National Championship game against Alabama, is a playoff headliner once more. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

He’s back: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, here signalling during last season’s College Football Playoff Championship game against Alabama, is a playoff headliner once more. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It’s a question of perception as much as performance: Is Clemson officially one of the big boys yet?

It’s located in a pocket of South Carolina that seldom is mentioned among the popular crossroads of the college game. It plays in a sometimes overlooked conference – especially whenever FSU isn’t viable. And while it is rightfully proud of its traditions and lore, Clemson has but the one national championship. And that has accumulated 35 years of dust.

Suwanee’s Mitch Hyatt, the Tigers’ sophomore left tackle, addressed some of the confusion about where Clemson stands, even in comparison to itself. Hyatt’s uncle, Dan Benish, was a starting defensive lineman on the 1981 championship team. “It’s like the best time now, back-to-back years (going to the playoffs), just crazy,” said Hyatt.

Then thinking back to his uncle’s days, he amended, “That was the best time. Now it’s like getting back to that. It’s awesome.”

Not a horrible chore, really, ranking the best of times.

Back in the final four for a second consecutive year – facing one of the elites in Ohio State in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl, hoping to get another shot in the final against lordly Alabama – Clemson is ready to make the argument that it deserves a promotion. From charming interloper to one of the truly consistent powerhouses.

“Our status as far as being an elite program is validated. I don’t know how we can validate it any more,” the Tigers never shy coach, Dabo Swinney, said last week.

You didn’t expect him to say, “Nah, we’re just a humble bunch of farmhands that somehow got invited to the cotillion,” did you?

Winning a title sometime before this decade is out would a go a long way toward clarifying the matter. The Tigers were oh-so close last season, taking Bama to the last gasp before losing 45-40.

“It comes down to a couple plays. It’s going to happen, hopefully it’s this year,” Swinney said. “We’re going to win the national championship. Clemson will win multiple national championships as we move forward here. History is going to tell the tale. Regardless of if I’m here or not, it’s going to happen.”

OK, then, that’s been established.

For Clemson to keep up with its coach’s grand vision it must show itself capable of thriving beyond the shelf life of one dynamic player who happened to fall its way from Gainesville, quarterback Deshaun Watson. And there is the strong belief around the program that Watson’s impact will be felt long after he has been given the keys to an NFL offense.

There is something to be said for being undervalued, to having almost, but not quite, arrived. Just listen to Watson, who said he perpetually plays with a chip on his shoulder, “to prove I’m the best player in the country and Clemson is the best team in the country.”

But the Tigers ache to be recognized on a national scale. And they are owed that much seeing how only Alabama has been more of a constant here in the beginning of the playoff era.

Maybe Clemson never will be “storied.” That’s where the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, USC and Notre Dame live, no matter the record of the moment. There’s no breaking that glass ceiling of perception. But it would be quite pleased if you would consider it one of the big boys for at least a few weeks more.

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29 comments
LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Yes and GT getting closer and closer!

kmagnes
kmagnes

Every year at bowl time, I remember that I always have these two questions. First, when the ball is snapped on a fake FG, why is the ball not dead when the snapper catches it, since his knee is on the ground? Also, what is that determines if a penalty is half the distance to the goal as opposed to the yardage?

FSUNole
FSUNole

FSU has 3 national titles in the last 23 years...we've had our battles with clemson, but head to head we still have a sizeable margin of victories over them...let's see how good they are when watson goes pro....just like when Jameis left...they will take a step back...

OH:IO
OH:IO

11warriors.com


Both Kirby Smart and Gary Patterson are defensive-minded coaches. Smart will hope to parlay that into a low-scoring game. TCU, for all its problems, is the No. 22 total offense in the country. Georgia is No. 89.


Too much time at the buffet?

OH:IO
OH:IO

Can't get away from the dog toilet bowl hype.


I mean, it's everywhere......not.


The 11AM undercard on December 30. 

Bogan
Bogan

The top QB chosen will be neither Watson nor the Louisville QB, but the QB from NC.  He will be picked high in first round.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Bogan The QB from Louisville is unable to leave school.He's too young...The QB from NC will need to do well in the bowl games this year in order to be the first QB picked.

Peachs
Peachs

What interest me is the ACC has been putting players in the pros at as strong a clip as the SEC the last few years. Your top two quarterbacks and then some were ACC, this year. So when the great players come through Atlanta and beat a Tech team the public is clueless, and think Tech has sunk to a new low level instead of being impress that someone came in here and beat them., with a really good football team.


I am not sure journalism was this, "mail it in", as it is today.  Interview some pro scouts and you may get an entirely different reality than what is in print. The resurgent Falcons ,for one, have done a lot of this work on the backs of a few ACC players.



TOJacket
TOJacket

I would say if you're getting in the playoffs on a regular basis you are somewhat elite.....Dabo is a good coach.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

All Watson. Once he is gone it will be back to mediocrity. Look at 2014 once he was hurt.

GTroller
GTroller

@twelveofthirteen

Agree.  Just like Cam Newton and Auburn--- except I don't think Watson will have nearly the impact in the NFL Cam Newton does.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTroller

And what impact, exactly, has the insufferable Newton had in the NFL this season?

TOJacket
TOJacket

@OH:IO @DawgNole @GTroller Guess you have to win something every year for Mrs. Landers to give you some respect......how the heck is he a UGA fan then?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Nope. You just have to earn that respect, which (as most knowledgeable fans are aware) Newton has NOT done.

"Knowledgeable fans"--now there's a group you can exclude yourself from.

dawg fan
dawg fan

Yes they are legit and have the best shot at beating Bama of any team in the playoffs. On another note, it's probably worth noting for all the Kirby haters out there that Dabo was a young career assistant with no head coaching experience too when he took over. His first couple of seasons were very mediocre and everybody thought they were morons for forcing out Bowden and his steady 9 wins a year. Sound familiar? Look at them now.

GTroller
GTroller

@dawg fan

Dabo never lost to Vanderbilt on homecoming like Ray Goff II or blow a big 4th qtr lead at home to a ridiculously outmatched/outrecruited in-state rival.  And besides that, Dabo will probably find himself on a hot seat like Gus Malzahn after his one-in-a-million QB leaves.

dawg fan
dawg fan

Dabo had a losing season in his second year you effing moron.

Mulk
Mulk

@dawg fan


If UGAG is such a great program and Dabo is such a great coach, why didn't they hire Dabo instead of Smart???