Beyond Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina, the ACC in 2015 was nothing special. But what was the SEC beyond Alabama? (Ole Miss, which cracked the New Year’s Six, lost to Memphis. Florida scored two points against FSU.) What was the Big 12 apart from Oklahoma? (Oklahoma State, which will face Ole Miss in the Sugar, lost its final two games at home by an aggregate 45 points.)
For as much skepticism as there is about the ACC, there’s even more about Clemson. The calendar is about to turn to 2016, but many still haven’t gotten past the Orange Bowl of Jan. 2, 2012. The Tigers lost to West Virginia 70-33 that night, and yes, it was embarrassing. But Clemson has since won an Orange Bowl over a Brand Name – Ohio State, among the biggest of brands – and won 58-0 in the same Sun Life Stadium over Miami on Oct. 24.
Some folks keep waiting for Clemson to crater just to yell, “See? Told you so!” But the phenomenon once known as “Clemsoning” hasn’t applied since 2011. Over the past four seasons, the Tigers have lost seven games – all to ranked teams. Clemson has won its past three bowls, the victories coming against LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma, all of which claimed titles in the BCS era. This is not some fly-by-night program. This is a team of rare balance – it’s seventh in total defense, 12th in total offense – and championship-caliber talent.
If Clemson loses on New Year’s Eve, it won’t be because it’s from a basketball league. It won’t be because it’s Clemson. And I’m not sure the Tigers will lose here or anywhere. They’re the most impressive team I’ve seen in person this season, and I’ve caught Alabama twice.