As we approach the final game for Clemson Football before they take their bye week next weekend, I am a bit reflective.
Wake Forest was the first place I ever saw Clemson play live and in person. My dad worked for a company in Winston-Salem and could get tickets for Deacons games. It wasn’t as easy to get them in Death Valley in the early 1980s. Wake is program that I will always like and appreciate. I am a sucker for underdogs.
I have been continually impressed over the years how Wake Forest manages to rebuild with ease. This is a program that I recall being good once when I was a kid because they had a quarterback named Mike Elkins who was pretty good. It feels like it was a very long time until they were good again under head coach Jim Grobe. I remember being genuinely shocked that they won the Atlantic Coast Conference in football. It was bizarre but so much fun too.
These days, they might go up or down, but they typically don’t stay down long. It’s been awhile since they were annual cellar-dwellers. Dave Clawson is a very good coach, but he might be an even better program leader.
As such, I didn’t know what to expect from Clawson’s team in 2023. I didn’t have high hopes for them at first, but my expectations increased over the summer.
They’ve only been tested once, and Georgia Tech beat them in Winston-Salem, but it was close. Tech then proceeded to lose to Bowling Green. BGSU is another team I like (for reasons that would take too long to explain) but I’m objective: The Falcons are mid for a MAC team.
The transitive property can be dangerous, but it does appear this Deacons team has taken a definitive step back.
The vast majority of prognosticators I have heard this week think Clemson covers the three touchdown spread and wins easily today. It appears that I am an army of one that isn’t sold that “Clemson is back”, at least not yet.
We know Clemson has flaws. Those flaws torpedoed the Tigers against Duke. They were just a bit too much to overcome against Florida State. The Devils and Seminoles are both solid teams.
A valid question for the Tigers is “Can you still win if you have a bad day?”
Can Clemson Football have a bad day and still beat Wake Forest?
The answer for Clemson against Duke and FSU was no. The answer against Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic was yes. Those are extreme examples but they illustrate the point.
Clemson was not perfect against Syracuse, but they were closer than they have been all season. Time will tell where Syracuse will fit in the college football hierarchy, but I think they will be a bowl team for certain. Might win eight games.
Yesterday, I mentioned the Tigers’ tendency to be flat in games right before a bye week. I hope that doesn’t impact Clemson today, but history says it is something we should keep in mind.
Even if Clemson has a bad day, will this performance still be enough to get them by the Deacons? My answer is yes, and that might be something reassuring to learn. The experience of learning it might just be a little bit frustrating.