“I hate to say this year is national title or bust; it isn’t a fair or rational expectation. But to come so close, anything less than winning it all will feel a disappointment if I am honest with myself.” - STS Writer Alex Craft
We knew how crazy it was. We knew it was unfair to heap that kind of expectation on this team. We tried our best not to do it, but with the greatest Clemson Tiger of all-time coming back for a final season, redemption had to be the ending. Nothing else would do.
We did our best to look at the season objectively, and we had high expectations. Our panel of bloggers ranged from projecting 9.08 to 10.94 wins. Alex Craft gets the gold star for a spot on win total of 10.94 wins. You can see the article to see who was projecting two or more losses for the Tigers!
What held others back from being quite as optimistic was the game in Doak Campbell. Here’s what we wrote about that game.
“The most dangerous game according to our panel is the FSU game, coming in as a 52% win likelihood for Clemson. Two panelists gave the Tigers below a 50% chance to win, four put them right at 50%, while three panelists and the readers gave the Tigers just a shade over a 50% chance to beat the Seminoles.
This projection largely comes down to question marks with Florida State more than Clemson. It's at the QB position in particular. If Deondre Francois (or Sean Maguire) can provide the 'Noles consistently strong QB play, their overall talent (Travis Rudolph at WR, Dalvin Cook at RB, excellent talent on defense including Derwin James at S) could make them the best overall team in the country. Fortunately for the Tigers, QB is still a big question mark.”
Florida State had issues we didn’t expect. Their defense was hurt by the injury to S Derwin James, but really struggled even when he was healthy. Deondre Francois was solid at QB, but was hampered by poor O-line play. FSU thought they had a good group of O-linemen returning after playing a lot of inexperienced but highly-recruited guys the year before, but it didn’t pan out.
FSU improved as the year went on. Clemson may have blown out the ‘Noles had they got them earlier, but by the time the two teams played, the ‘Noles were starting to click. Eventually, Louisville would collapse down the stretch and the hot Seminoles would take their place in the Orange Bowl and beat Michigan. With the finish they had and a lot of talent departing from other ACC teams, expect them to be pre-season favorites to win the ACC next season.
Many of us thought Clemson would win 11 games, but we feared that the sole loss would be the Atlantic Division tie-breaker (it nearly was, but to Louisville). Fortunately, Clemson’s loss was one of the more irrelevant losses in memory. In fact, it seemed to re-focus the team.
Here’s what I said in Brian’s season expectations article:
“I expect Clemson to finish 11-1 with a trip to a major six bowl game. We'll need some things to go our way to get back to the playoff (as does any playoff team). After finishing just a play or two away from a title, this year I want it all. Realistically, I'm expecting a loss and a painful one that could keep us out of the playoff, but I want the trophy this year more than ever. Then, understanding that most of our offense will leave after this season, I can bring my hopes back to realistic level moving forward. Just for this year, let me be greedy... Put a ring on it!”
I was greedy. Dabo, Watson, Boulware and the crew earned those rings. Now we can be realistic with our expectations moving forward. They delivered for us.