Clemson Football: The lazy national narrative is out of touch

Clemson Football struggled on offense in the 2021 season. Not much went right from the start: the quarterback was inconsistent, the receivers kept dropping the ball, the line couldn’t block and the running back room had two types of player: young or disgruntled.

As the season progressed, the offense improved. Some offensive lineman returned from injury & the passing game found more confidence. The problems in the running back room moved on and the younger guys grew up on the field.

Despite this modest improvement, Clemson’s offense still wasn’t very good. Per Teamrankings.com, Clemson had the 85th best scoring offense against FBS competition in 2021. They were even worse in offensive yards per game at 98th overall.

Understandably, the question for the 2022 Tigers was whether they could right the ship and return to competition for the ACC championship, and possibly a playoff berth. Most thought the defense was good enough, but could the offense pull their weight?

Things didn’t seem great out of the gate against Georgia Tech. DJ Uiagalelei made some mistakes early, but defense and special teams kept the Yellow Jackets bottled up, and eventually the offense found their stride.

It was the opposite against Furman: DJ came out on fire, with touchdowns on his first five drives, but then the offense slowed down in the 2nd half.

The Louisiana Tech game was a yo-yo: started good, then crept along until halftime. Next thing we knew, the offense exploded with their best quarter of action all season.

Have the Tigers been firing on all cylinders all the time? No, they haven’t, but that doesn’t mean what we are seeing this season isn’t drastically different than last year.

Through two games against FBS competition, Teamrankings.com ranks Clemson as the 10th best scoring team. They are 37th in offensive yards per game (Team rankings.com only considers games against FBS competition).

That is a considerable improvement. It’s only through two games, but 44.5 points per game is nothing to sneer at, even if the points flow more freely at some times than others.

Box scores are fun, but the scoreboard doesn’t care if the points are evenly distributed throughout the game or they all happen in the third quarter. 44.5 points per game is 44.5 points per game.

That hasn’t stopped the national narrative. Just this week, the Cover 3 Podcast crew again commented on how Clemson’s offense is challenged and that they might have to look to “the guy on the sideline” (Cade Klubnik) because DJ was unreliable. Meanwhile, DJ’s passer rating in this season (144.4) is only two points below his rating in 2020 (146.4) when the national pundits considered him a favorite to win the Heisman in 2021.

Lazy narratives tend to follow Clemson football around and 2022 is no different with very few media members recognizing the improvement from 2021

ESPN personality Kirk Herbstreit bumped Clemson out of his playoff projection following the Louisiana Tech win. He didn’t comment specifically on the Tigers. He might simply think that OU and USC took a jump and passed Clemson, but it’s not like either were playing titans (Nebraska & Fresno State respectively, who are a combined 2-5 on the season).

Even some local sports opinionists like Marc Ryan are still describing Clemson’s offense as “sputtering” and in need of ‘serious help’.

Because Clemson isn’t scoring nice and evenly throughout their games, people continue with the lazy narrative that the Clemson offense is troubled. Even professional sports observers continue to hang on to this narrative.

Then again, this shouldn’t come as a shock. Lazy narratives tend to follow Clemson around, especially Coach Swinney. Somehow, people are still triggered by the sight of him…..running.

I guess Clemson will have to make a statement. I guess they will need to add a touchdown in every quarter they play, or else the lazy narrative will continue.

By the way, if Clemson had added a touchdown in every quarter they didn’t find the end zone against Georgia Tech (1st quarter) and Louisiana Tech (2nd quarter), they would be tied for 3rd most points per game. Fun fact: they would be tied with Kansas. Funny how no one seems to have a problem acknowledging the Jayhawks have improved considerably.

It still probably wouldn’t be good enough to change some minds about Clemson.