No more looking ahead. No more jockeying for position. No more worrying about conserving players for more important games down the road.
This is it. Clemson has one hurdle left to clear to make a third trip to the College Football Playoff. If the Tigers beat No. X Miami on Saturday in the ACC Championship, they’ll be tied with Alabama for the most appearances in the playoff, assuming the Crimson Tide don’t sneak in.
At the beginning of the year, uncertainty hung around the Clemson program. Was it a one-hit wonder? Were the Tigers only contenders because they had one of the greatest quarterbacks to play college football leading their team, or was there more to it?
Well, we’ve got our answer.
Dabo Swinney is among the best coaches in the country, and as long as he’s captaining the ship, Clemson should be in this position year in and year out. Kelly Bryant has stepped into Deshaun Watson’s spot seamlessly and been hyper-efficient in guiding the Clemson offense in his first season as a starter, and Brent Venables’ defense hasn’t missed a beat.
The Tigers have a resume comprised of wins over several notable teams, including a No. X Auburn team that is on the verge of entering the College Football Playoff itself with a win over No. X Georgia in the SEC Championship on Saturday.
None of that matters, though, if Clemson can’t complete the first part of its goal by beating Miami. The Hurricanes have sent ripples through the college football landscape by announcing their arrival into the upper echelon of programs once again under Mark Richt, and they appear to have left the mediocrity of the last regime behind.
So, two teams, each with distinct, separate goals will be meeting in Charlotte, N.C., this week. Clemson is on the verge of proving its run to the each of the last two national title games weren’t flukes, that the Tigers are back as a perennial powerhouse regardless of who is under center. Miami’s on the precipice of kicking the door down on the ACC and reclaiming the glory of the early 2000s it had under Larry Coker.
The game is as compelling an ACC title game as we’ve seen, and it holds all the high-stakes implications you could want out of a conference championship game
Win, and Clemson is in. Win, and the dream of repeating as national champions stays alive. Win, and Clemson’s throne won’t be usurped, as long as the Tigers have anything to say about it.
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