2012: Chick-fil-A Tiger Slayers
Now, we are beginning to get into recent history.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that 2012 was deemed “the year of the Tiger.”
Clemson returned Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Andre Ellington, Roderick McDowell, and a plethora of talent on the offensive side of the ball and a fiery personality on the defensive ball in new coordinator Brent Venables.
Clemson football brought in yet another top-10 rated recruiting class and things were, without a doubt, looking up for the program.
The Tigers got off to a great start with a 26-19 victory over the Auburn Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Unfortunately, Clemson football could not pull out a win on the road down in Tallahassee and- in turn- loss their chance at participating in the ACC Championship game.
Clemson closed out their season on a seven-game win streak before losing to in-state rival South Carolina for the third-straight year.
This, in my opinion, set up the turning point of the Clemson football program back to the ranks of the elite.
Clemson was set to take on the number-eight ranked LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and all the talking heads were predicting a “blowout.” “Clemson’s offense might work in the weak ACC, but we all see how it works when you play an ACC defense” said ESPN “analyst” Lou Holtz.
In step DeAndre Hopkins. In step Tajh Boyd. In step the Clemson defensive line.
The Tigers were able to dominate the LSU line up-front and came away with a Chandler Catanzaro last second field goal to bring in the new year with a bang.
What a game. The atmosphere was like none other. I can remember the LSU fans in utter shock as they realized they had just been beaten by an “inferior ACC school.” Clemson proved to be the better team and this game changed the outlook of the football program.
All of a sudden, Tiger fans had a renewed energy in the program. The naysayers began to realize at this point that this Dabo Swinney character was more than just a face. He was a legitimate coach and CEO that could take the Clemson Football program to an elite level.
Next: 2013: Orange Bowl Champions