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Take Valley Week 11 - The Schedule Bubble

I’m tired of waiting until New Years for elite matchups

Furman v Clemson Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

It’s a mistake as old as time: someone comes into some money and wants to invest in the stock market. The only problem is that they have absolutely no idea how to do that, they just know rich people have stocks.

So they look to the richest person they know, maybe a cousin or something. Why not? If it works for them, it must be a smart option. When the new investor sees their rich cousin, they bring up money a lot more often, trying to grab onto whatever information that they can get so they can copy the strategy on their own. Rich cousin doesn’t need to know, it won’t hurt them.

And the new investor is diligent! Making sensible trades and only withdraws when absolutely necessary. But the new investor doesn’t really find much success, especially not compared to their cousin. The strategy works fine for them! What gives?

The new investor didn’t really consider that the rich cousin’s been doing this for a looooong time. They bought shares in the same kinds of companies, yes, but the rich cousin did it when prices were lower and the market was younger. Oh and they never withdrew a cent of the money they put in. (Yeah, yeah, I know they could only do that because they fell ass-backward into a good job – don’t be bitter.)

The new investor sticks with the plan, though, and it ends up being not all bad. They have a few good years and end up doing as well as the rich cousin does, percentage-wise at least, and everything is going fine. But eventually, the bubble bursts and a recession hits, sending all the gains of the previous years back to zero. The new investor is left wishing they’d just put it in a managed savings account and the rich cousin will be fine.

10 years ago, Clemson is that new investor. They have a brand new coach and they need to do their long-term scheduling, so they do exactly what you’d expect. Their rich cousins in the 2000s are Auburn and Florida – and the strategy is pretty simple. Schedule a pretty good team early in the year, two cupcakes wherever needed, and the OOC rival at the end. Easy peasy.

Clemson schedules Auburn for a few years right off the bat, then Georgia in 2013 and 2014. They find some success in those games, going 14-6 OOC from 2010-2014, but 10 of those wins were versus cupcakes, and only 1 was vs South Carolina.

That’s not a huge deal though. Sure, cupcakes are worthless, but at least they get the prestige of beating Auburn and Georgia! Except, they didn’t beat the good Auburn team and the Georgia team they beat ended up being a disappointment.

In 2015 they were gifted by the ACC an OOC home game with #6 Notre Dame, upping the strength of schedule a good bit. But in 2016 and 2017 it went back to playing Auburn, and not a particularly elite Auburn. In 2018 it got by with an A&M road game, but in 2019 Clemson needs to go 13-0 to make the playoff.

Clemson’s scheduling bubble has burst, and it will hurt the team for years to come.

If the college football world making fun of Clemson’s schedule annoys you, you’d better get used to it.

Week after week Clemson’s been downgraded for a schedule even weaker than what had been projected. A&M was the good team early, but they’ll probably go 7-5. One of the cupcakes got shifted to week 4, which just makes the game seem even more like a paycheck than if it were a season opener. South Carolina will be 6-5 at best coming into the Palmetto Bowl and the coastal is not going to be bringing a lot to the title game.

Looking to the future doesn’t yield much better results. Next year Clemson goes to Notre Dame which isn’t bad, but 2021 might be rock bottom.


Wyoming. The big game is W Y O M I N G.

2022 and 2023 have two more trips to Notre Dame before games versus Georgia and LSU finally make the docket in 2024 and beyond

At some point, a lack of big games before the playoff will come back to bite Clemson. It might be because they aren’t prepared to play an elite team after months of cruise control, or it might be because they dropped a fluke game and didn’t have the resume for the CFP.

“But John!” you begin to comment, “Bama’s schedule is weak too!” And that may well be pretty true, but Bama still plays multiple ranked teams, with #1 LSU coming up this weekend. Bama has the luxury of knowing the SEC will be pretty good every year, so they can keep scheduling as they do without worry of having a weak schedule more than once every few years.

Even if Clemson maintains its juggernaut status forever (it won’t), eventually fans would rather stay home and watch the assured wins in comfort instead of dealing with Clemson traffic.

There is no guarantee that the ACC will improve over the next few years. Firing Willie Taggart very well could be what sends FSU to the depths, who knows? Clemson absolutely shouldn’t rely on the ACC to be good enough to fill out a playoff resume – the problem will persist until the ACC improves.

Clemson should eat the fee and cancel at least the UCONN game; for the future make the switch to two reasonably good teams, a (possibly legally-mandated) cupcake, and South Carolina.

Stop eating the second cupcake, Clemson.

Sorry for not sending out an article last week, I had way too much school work to spend time in the Valley, but luckily I didn’t break my jaw this time!

Send me hot, cold, or like icky mushy/warm takes to @STSouthland, @JuanFabulous, in the comments below, or to my email at and try to keep them Clemson, or ACC, or CFB related.