Sunday, November 10, 2019

Schaible: Tigers proved they belong in the CFP stage once more under the lights

Photo Credit: Brian Schaible

By: Brian Schaible
Twitter: @SBNationReports

It’s often just hyperbole when someone asserts, “this game was over before it even began.”

But on a cold Saturday night in Raleigh, the outcome almost seemed pre-determined. This was indeed a lopsided affair.

After making consecutive bowl games under coach Dave Doeren, the NC State Wolfpack are fading fast. The 55-10 ambush by the Clemson Tigers follows blowout losses to Boston College and Wake Forest.

At 4-5, bowl eligibility is very much in peril.

For Clemson, that’s 25 straight victories. After Wake Forest lost to unranked Virginia Tech on the same day, the four-time Atlantic Coast Conference champions also clinched a berth in the title game on Dec. 7.

“Good teams should get better,” said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.

“We are at that point in the season where yeah, we should be at our best. We should not have been at our best in September.”

Is this Clemson’s absolute best? That’s still to be determined.

Even with winning two of the last four national championships, the Tigers carry more than a few chips on their collective shoulders.

While it’s expected that the Tigers will rise from their “made for TV” initial fifth place ranking in the College Football Playoff poll, this team still believes it has plenty to prove.

“It’s hard to make history, especially with some of the teams we’ve had over the last few years,” said Swinney. “This team continues to separate itself and live its own legacy.”

Yet, that didn’t stop critics from continuing to poke at Clemson’s strength of schedule and argue for their omission from playoff consideration.

Some southern minded scribes even dared to suggest that an undefeated Clemson team could be passed over for one or more SEC runner-ups?

That’s all just lunacy.

“We don’t focus on it (CFP ranking),” said quarterback Trevor Lawrence. “If we don’t win next week and the week after that, it doesn’t really matter about the playoff if we lose a game.”

While the narrative in Tuscaloosa last night was how the losing team should still make the playoffs, Clemson has accepted that it’s win or go home.

They dodged a bullet in Chapel Hill last month after edging out the Tar Heels by a single point. But since that scare, they have steamrolled teams by a margin of 263-55. 

In what will likely prove prophetic in the weeks ahead, Swinney summed up Clemson’s relentless mentality to not take its feet off the gas.

“We are just trying to let them play. They could have stopped us, too! We subbed everybody, there was nobody else to put in there.”