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Post-Orange Bowl Sunday Thoughts

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

It is good to win a BCS game.  This team/coaching staff deserve all the credit they receive for the win and the Top 10 finish the Tigers will likely secure on Tuesday morning.  There is no arguing that point as 11 wins including a BCS win over Ohio State surely secures that point.  Say what you will about Ohio State and how Clemson got to the Orange Bowl but the Tigers were able to score more points than its opponent and pull out the win.  This win effectively saved the season in most people's opinion and was a big one for Coach Dabo and his staff.  What this victory-and the extension that Clemson is going to give Dabo-really means is that barring some extreme disaster, he is on safe footing at Clemson for some time.

The football game played out as most suspected-a lot of offense.  The two schools combined for 1000 yards and 75 points.  Ohio State's defense was garbage and Clemson exploited it.  Sammy had his usual monster football game and Tajh was able to rack up some nice numbers.  Clemson's defense again had difficulty at the safety position and the two turnovers were flat out ugly.  All in all, though, the defense played well enough to win and the front seven was able to do a pretty good job against a very potent OSU rushing duo.  While Boyd put up big numbers, he also kept OSU in the football game with an incredibly stupid interception that kept Clemson from scoring early in the game and one at the end that gave Ohio State an opportunity to take one last shot at the Clemson defense.  The first INT was just silly.  There is no need for that crap as a field goal there was nearly a lock and Tajh may have been able to lower the shoulder and get a first down there.  After the second pick, I'll admit I was a little peeved by the playcalling that put the football in the air there at the end.  That being said, you expect your senior quarterback to be more careful with the football in that situation.  Tajh looked like he was getting rattled and about to implode.  However, he and the offense were able to pull everything together following a big Buckeye turnover to battle back and eventually win the football game.  Credit goes where it is earned as does criticism.  Tajh gets both for the performance Friday.  On a completely separate note, there is no excuse for missing an extra-point, period.

The line of silliness also arose on the Buckeyes' first drive.  Clemson did a nice job containing Braxton Miller then securing a third down sack to stop the drive.  Clemson then was the recipient of a very questionable penalty.  Whether it was a throat slash or not is definitely arguable.  What is not is the fact that the NCAA does not like anything resembling a throat slash.  A Clemson player earlier this year was suspended by Swinney the gesture.  This wasn't the same gesture but one would suspect the players would come nowhere close to any crossing, period.  Overall, the officiating was terrible.  It was bad for both squads and I am unsure how the announcers could even consider saying anything to the contrary.  I'll leave it at that because that topic is mute and not worth delving into today.

Moving forward, Clemson has a lot of parts to replace.  Clemson will break in a new quarterback in 2014.  While Tajh had his areas of fault (and probably should have been pulled for at least a series or two to recompose several times over his career), I am concerned about the transition process.  One item that is overlooked is Clemson's use of Boyd on 3rd and 4th and short situations.  In those spots, Clemson had to use Tajh because we had issues with backs getting key yards.  The same holds through in the red zone.  Clemson will have to find a bulldozer who can get a critical yard or two if needed.

Clemson will also need to account for the production that goes to the NFL from one Sammy Watkins.  I suspect Bryant will come back and am looking forward to seeing Peake back on the field next season but Sammy Watkins is, well, Sammy Watkins.  This guy is a once in a generation (or more) player who I think will be remembered as the best to play wide receiver for our Tigers.  Clemson will see changes on the offensive line, may lose Vic Beasley, have vacancies at linebacker, lose a pretty good corner in Robinson, and potentially will see Breeland jump ship as well.  CU will also need to find another kicker as Catman is gone as well.  All of these moving parts create anxiety headed into the 2014 campaign and certainly present obstacles for the staff headed into the Spring.

As we have repeatedly stated here, I believe Clemson has gotten about as far as it can get with the current formula Swinney has in place.  We think Clemson needs a shift in S&C, better roster management, and more emphasis on getting good numbers in school up front.  We've discussed these topics at great length and I will try not to bore fellow Clemson fans by regurgitating these opinions again at length today.  If you are happy with the relative success, I believe that 8-10 wins can be attained without change.  If you want to win a national championship (this includes competing with a constantly improving Florida State program and winning a state championship) Clemson has to keep on moving forward.  Improvement in the areas mentioned earlier in this paragraph are a must if this program is to keep marching forward.

To Dabo's credit, he has brought in good assistants, continued to recruit pretty well, and has lessened his micromanagement.  The next concern is what will happen once Chad Morris leaves town.  I am not certain when he will leave but you have to imagine he'll get the itch to take a head coaching job sometime soon.  He, along with recruited talent like Sammy Watkins, is a large reason for the turnaround we saw from 2010 to 2011.  We have a couple weeks of hiring cycles left to better gauge who will be calling plays next season.  We will be very fortunate if The Chad doesn't ride off soon considering we'll be without Sammy, will have a new starter under center, and have spots to fill up front.

What do I think will happen next season?  With mounds of questions and uncertainties out there, our schedule is still relatively soft.  The Georgia game prediction is questionable.  Florida State will be favored against Clemson and the Gamecocks will press for half a dozen in a row.  We have a couple of 1-AA opponents and what appear to be few challenges in the conference schedule outside of the Seminoles.  I'll point out that we trade the White Meat for UNC (more difficult) and UMd for Louisville (again, this appears to be an upgrade in competition).  This program was pointed towards 2013 and will see some bumps as some very good players leave the program this offseason.  You can guess where I think we'll end up...I'll give you a hint, it will be no better than this season and no worse than 2010.

Around the horn, this has been an entertaining Bowl Season.  I was disappointed that Duke seemed to give the football game away on NYE.  UCF's upset combined with Michigan State's first Rose Bowl win in quite some time was interesting.  Carolina played well to beat Wisconsin and Georgia finished off their injury-plagued season with another loss.

Obviously my Falcons are sitting at home this playoff season so I'll be watching the rest of the league out there.  The Saints pulled one out last night but the story of yesterday has to be the Chiefs/Colts.  The Chiefs put together a 28 point lead yesterday and, after the first half, most assumed they would ease on into the second playoff round.  That was definitely not the case as Andrew Luck and the Colts offense rallied to miraculously win this football game.  I was also a bit surprised to see all the injuries suffered by the Chiefs.  It was no surprise, though, to see the clock mismanagement by an Andy Reid team.  If you haven't heard yet, it will be chilly in Green Bay as the Packers host the 49ers.  The Chargers head to Cincinnati.  The AFC West represents half of that side of the playoffs.  I find it interesting how quickly these NFL teams and divisions move up and down in the overall pecking order.

As everyone knows, Florida State and Auburn lock horns tomorrow night with the big crystal ball on the line.  Auburn is very fortunate to be in this game, especially considering how they won the final two football games of the regular season.  Florida State rolled through their year but played only one really legit football team and that was Clemson.  Florida State looks like the real deal and I certainly hope that they are able to take care of business.

With Clemson's football season over, the shift will be towards basketball, National Signing Day, and more thoroughly assessing the 2013 season so that we can look forward to the Spring Football/2014 football season.