Clemson Football had a tough game to open the season. No matter what some fans assumed, people who had watched Duke objectively in 2022 knew that playing the Blue Devils in Durham wouldn’t be a cakewalk.
People knew Clemson would have a tough game in Week 4 when they hosted the team that most people assumed was their stiffest competition for an ACC Championship, the Florida State Seminoles.
In between, Clemson would host Charleston Southern from the FCS and Florida Atlantic, a Group of Five school transitioning from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference.
Many fans simply wrote these games off as cupcake games. Several have commented that CSU was a glorified high school team and that even a good result against FAU didn’t carry much weight.
That’s fair. Fans are entitled to opinions, but I don’t think the team agreed with those fans one bit.
The team might share opinions regarding an assessment of talent for CSU and FAU. They might share the opinion that to call it a good night they needed to win by a large margin of points.
That doesn’t mean they saw those two opponents as cupcakes, and their reactions back that up.
Will Shipley is not known for being argumentative or disrespectful, yet he was very clearly agitated on the sideline when conversing with running backs coach CJ Spiller.
I doubt Shipley would be that fired up if he didn’t care about a cupcake opponent.
Clemson Football players and coaches took CSU and FSU seriously
While the Tigers’ offense played well in the first half, they came out flat in the third quarter. Clemson had a big lead, and they could have pulled their starters. Instead, Dabo Swinney kept the first stringers in the game until he saw the results he wanted to see.
Later in the fourth quarter, something happened that had Coach Swinney giving the officials an earful. I haven’t heard what he was upset about, but the Tigers had the game well in hand. I don’t think he would have argued with that intensity if he thought of FAU as a cupcake opponent that didn’t make a difference.
Fans may see CSU and FAU as cupcakes, but there wasn’t anything I’ve observed over the past two weekends that make me think the Tigers saw them as cupcakes. They saw them as opponents and they wanted to win those games.
I might doubt their execution over the first quarter of the season, but I have seen nothing to doubt their effort and willpower. I acknowledge the defense did lose steam late in the game against Duke, but it wasn’t because they didn’t take Duke seriously.