Dabo Swinney and the Clemson football program have been having a down year, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from making a statement with a 31-23 win over then No.15 ranked Notre Dame.
During College GameDay on Saturday, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who is very familiar with the Clemson football program, shared his thoughts on Clemson’s difficult season and what has been wrong with the Tigers this season. Mind you, this was before the Tigers took down the Fighting Irish, but it is relevant when you consider the situation this team has been in.
Sitting at 5-4 (2-4 ACC), the Tigers have the most losses they’ve had in a season since 2011, with three regular-season games left to play.
“Sustaining excellence is the hardest thing in this business for coaches,” Herbstreit said. “It’s one thing to get up to the top of that mountain. But to stay up there, the way Nick Saban has done this for so long makes you just back down and really appreciate it. What Bobby Bowden did in Tallahassee, and what Dabo has done, especially at Clemson.”
Herbstreit looks at a specific game that he notes the Tigers haven’t been the same since. That game is he College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl in the 2020 season, when Ohio State beat the Tigers 49-28 during the COVID season.
“Let’s be real – this has not been the same Clemson team since they walked off that field during COVID against Ohio State in the Superdome. It just hasn’t,” Herbstreit said. “You can blame it on the offensive system. You can blame it on, well, it was DJ’s fault. Now we’re going to blame it on Cade.”
Like many, Herbstreit has pinpointed the Tigers’ issues at wide receiver. This team simply hasn’t had the playmakers at the position they have in the past during the Dabo Swinney era of Clemson football.
“To me, the one common thing I see, because I still think they play defense – I don’t see the receivers that they had four years ago, five years ago, six years ago,” he said. “I’m not even talking about Mike Williams and the guys that go on to the NFL. I’m just talking about really good Artavis Scott-type of guys that make plays. They’ve had some big recruits, but they haven’t hit there in recruiting.”
Hopefully, this Notre Dame win is the turning point for Swinney and the Tigers.