Clemson exceeded preseason projections with dominant wins throughout the season, easily taking care of #13 Auburn, #14 Louisville, and #12 Virginia Tech. Many thought this team would not compare to their National Championship team last year, as they lost play makers on both sides of the ball. Most notably, a leading candidate for NFL rookie of the year, Deshaun Watson along with other standouts like Shaq Lawson and Wayne Gallman. However, Dabo Swinney and company made it work with a rejuvenated defense and of course Kelly Bryant. All of these factors and the eleven game away winning streak they were riding would infer another easy victory in the Carrier Dome.
But what happened, why did Clemson lose to such an average team? Some have speculated that it was just finally there time to lose, having escaped some near losses during the twelve game winning streak. Some give credit to an admirable performance by Eric Dungy and the Orangemen last Friday. But me, personally, believes that it all comes down to the loss of Kelly Bryant just before halftime. Although the first half was a very close game, I am confident that if Bryant would have remained in the game, his skill set and consistent play would have been the difference and I would not be writing this article.
Along with the Bryant loss and mounting pressure on the Tigers, Syracuse has the history for this upset in beating three defending national champions in their last nine tries.
Although this was a huge drawback in their season, Clemson is certainly still in contention for a spot in the playoffs. The Tigers dropped to 7th in the nation, having an opportunity considering they win out. Ohio State is the only one loss team ranked ahead of the Tigers in the AP bowl. With six weeks left in the regular season, there is certainly room for Clemson to claw their way back into the picture.
Dabo Swinney remained optimistic, stating that Clemson will learn from their mistakes and move on with the mentality that every game is a must win. However, the uncertainty at the quarterback position hinders his confidence. Moving forward, the Tigers are on bye this week looking to have some rest and bounce back against Georgia Tech next weekend. That will be the precursor to a highly anticipated matchup with NC State on November 4th. These next two games will test the Tigers, and if they win both look for them to have a head full of steam going into the final quarter of the season. In my opinion, this will only happen if Kelly Bryant successfully recovers from his lingering ankle injury and concussion. He is the rock of the offense, and without him they cannot move the ball effectively. We will all be anticipating the results and it will be interesting.