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Headspace: Fighting Unrealistic Expectation and Enjoying Clemson’s View from Atop

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson Celebration Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m so happy for our team, our fans, our administration, our former players that love the paw. There ain’t never been a 15-0 team. And I know we’re not supposed to be here - we’re just little ol’ Clemson - and I know I’m not supposed to be here, but we are and I am. How about them Tigers?... We beat Notre Dame and Alabama and left no doubt.” - Dabo Swinney

The Clemson Tigers just had the greatest season in the history of college football. They went 15-0 and blew out the two most historic programs to close it out. How can you top that? You can’t! So where are our collective heads as Clemson fans going to be as we head into the 2019 season?

We’ve decried the “business-like” attitude of Alabama fans in the past. Now that we are in the midst of a run of greatness not unlike their own, we’re susceptible to becoming much like them.

The Tigers could be 21-point favorites in every regular season game this coming year. They opened as 21-point favorites over their best opponent - Texas A&M. That can lead to some snooze-fest games and searching for areas of improvement. Instead, it is my assertion that Clemson fans focus on these things.

1. The teams officially stated goals:

“We’ve got five goals. Win the opener, win the division, win the state championship, win the ACC, win the closer. That’s all we focus on and we are just going to be the best we can be.”

Since 2015, Clemson has been perfect in accomplishing those first three goals.

Wins over Wofford, Auburn, Kent State, and Furman made them 4-0 in openers. They’ve won the Atlantic Division each year and turned those divisional titles into ACC crowns with victories over UNC, VT, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Beating the Cocks has become a formality.

As far as the closer, each of the past four years it has come against Alabama and the Tigers are 2-2.

“The fun is in the winning.” The Tigers are doing it. We’ll likely accomplish 3 or 4 of these goals next season. Savor it. Enjoy it. Don’t fall into the trap of obsessing over the eye test or comparing to Alabama every week. One day it won’t be like this. One day we’ll be good, but not the best program in the sport. Maybe that’s 20 years away, but it doesn’t get better than this.

2. Enjoy the building of “tradition”

Last year, The Tigers extended their lead in ACC Championships (Clemson’s 18 is three more than FSU, though Clemson has been an ACC member for much longer), passed FSU with five ACC Championship Game victories (to their four), and tied them with three national titles.

We were a sleeping giant with a nice decade in the 80s. Now we’re stringing together so many good seasons that we’re actually in the process of building the type of tradition you hear mentioned when true blood blood type programs like Michigan or Southern Cal are down. What we’re doing now will pay dividends for decades. It doesn’t take winning the National Championship each year to do this. It is build little by little, win by win, year by year. A down year by Clemson’s current expectations is still so high above the program’s average that it pulls the program higher and higher.

3. The best is yet to come

Speaking of pulling the program higher and higher, we’re now seeing recruiting truly take another step. Sure, Clemson had been bringing in top 10 classes when they built their two national championship rosters, but now those wins are paying dividends on the recruiting trail. The 2020 class should be the best in school history. Another elite QB is coming in (DJ Uiagalelei) along with 5-star talent at DL, RB and CB. Couple that with the high-character Clemson requires and the development they’ve proven and it’s hard not to be optimistic.

Unlike 2016 where we wondered if our championship window was closing and every game felt like a desperate fight to get a championship with Watson, now it seems clear that there are at least a handful of years of elite play coming from Tiger Town. We can relax and enjoy.

4. Enjoy doing it the right way

Lastly, but maybe most importantly, Clemson remains special. They’ve sacrificed nothing in term of character and values to get their rings. That’s what makes it so special.

This certainly stood out to DJ Uiagalelei and was the biggest reason he chose to cross the country to come to Clemson. This is not to say Clemson is perfect. Clemson’s reputation was attacked when several players tested positive for Osterine, but nevertheless it is a reputation of high-character while other schools seem more intent on winning at all costs.

We’re in the midst of something really special. It will end, and when it does, just make sure you enjoyed it while it was yours to enjoy.

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